Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rocked by a Sudden Tragedy

I must admit that I am very fortunate. I have friends of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of my dearest friends consider themselves to be liberal politically and others are quite conservative. I have friends who are deeply religious and others that are not.  Last night I visited a very special friend in an ICU unit at a Fort Worth hospital who is nearing age ____ (Well I should not tell her age.)  Today I interacted with several friends who could be her grandchildren.

In recent years, I have learned to appreciate the value of being in community with people of all ages and from varying walks of life. “Being in community” is common vernacular to my Generation X and Millennial Generation friends. They will refer to their circle of friends as “their community.”  My younger friends will also say that they are going to “engage in community.”  And I suppose that too is a legitimate way of expressing their desire to socialize and meet new people. I sometimes sense that my younger friends don’t realize that the old fogies among them also engage in community, even if they don’t use that phraseology. 

Several weeks ago I went with a law enforcement officer to deliver a death notification to an individual who would definitely be characterized as being elderly. Her son was killed in an unexpected tragedy. As soon as we broke the news to her, we immediately start searching for neighbors that could provide some initial support for her until family could arrive.  The officer I was with walked across the street and next door while I stayed to comfort the devastated lady.  Within minutes members of her “community” were in her living room. They cried with her and called relatives for her. They took down important information that we needed to leave with them regarding details surrounding her son’s death. And later that evening they started bringing in enough food to feed an army.

All of the people we interacted with on that call out were retired. I did not hear any of them say anything about “engaging in community.” When I thanked them before we left that evening, they simply said: this is what neighbors do…. I think they are right.  And I think we can learn some good things from retired people who love their neighbors.

I am thankful for my younger friends, but I feel compelled to say a few things to them regarding this whole matter of “engaging in community”

  • Broaden your horizons.  Your community should include people of all ages and from varying backgrounds.  If you only hang out with your peers, you will fall into a pit of group think. It is simply not healthy.

  • Serve your own. My first obligation is to the Granbury community. I love doing medical mission trips in Mexico, but my primary service should be to members of my own city.  There are dozens of ways to serve your local community. Get involved.

  • Don’t ignore those in close proximity.  I have made an effort to meet my neighbors where I live and I have also tried to be a good neighbor to those with businesses near the church where I serve.  It is called being neighborly and it is an important dimension of engaging in community.

  • You need friends that don’t think like you. My life is enriched by friends that don’t think like me.  I am friends with ministers whose theological views are far more conservative than mine.  A temptation exists not to extend a hand of friendship to those who are to the “right” or to the “left” of us theologically or politically. We live in such a polarized culture. Once again this is not healthy.

I have more to say to say on this topic, but the church is full of middle school and high school students right now.  It might be good for me to go and “engage them in community.” I might learn something…

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