Whatever the problem, community is the answer!
This is a quote from Margaret Wheatley that I have used often. I have grown over the last 15-20 years to believe this quote with unwavering certainty.
My community was the answer to my problem recently. In this story, my community consists of my neighborhood, my church, and my immediate family. My problem was how to create a deeply memorable wedding day on April 11, amidst the global pandemic, for my daughter and my soon to be son-in-law.
Three or four weeks before the wedding the couple decided to postpone the big shindig. Had they not, it would have been eventually forced on them as the governor and mayor had shut down all but essential services by April 1 and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.
While they postponed the large celebration, they were both determined to enter into the sacred covenant of marriage on April 11. It was the date they had been aiming toward for months, and they did not want to let it go. Yet up until one week before the wedding, it was still uncertain if it could happen. The world was changing daily. Social distancing and shutdowns caused continuous concern and second-guessing about the wisdom in proceeding.
One week out, it finally seemed like all systems were a go. The minister was available; the bride and groom along with their parents and siblings numbered ten; and the weather forecast was looking good for an outdoor ceremony. But none of the fine details for this revised wedding celebration had been planned. The details of flowers and greenery and candles and bouquets had not seemed pressing. Now that they were, there was little chance of acquiring them in the marketplace with everyone sheltering in place.
Two of my favorite thought-leaders, John McKnight and Peter Block, write in their book the Abundant Community,
Our culture tells us that a satisfying life can only be purchased. It tells us that in the place where we live, we don’t have the resources to create a good life.
Everyday neighbors, who once were the source of these things, have forgotten how to provide for one another. There is no need. We just go buy or hire out what is required.
But I hope that you have seen in our current times, as I have, that neighbors still have it, and community is still the answer.
One week before the wedding, I reached out to about 15 or so neighbors with requests for flowers and greenery from their yards, table linens, and candles. The gifts and loans of items were so abundant that I could not use them all! Right here, on my own street, there was more than enough! There was no need to go to the marketplace. Abundant community is all around us!
The wedding day was amazing from beginning to end. The living room furniture was moved and replaced with borrowed tables from my church. Borrowed linens began the transformation of the space to a banquet hall. Flowers and greenery sourced from my street, and lovingly arranged by my son and his girlfriend adorned the table. An abundance of candles provided by neighbors supplied all the light we needed for a wedding celebration.
Problems and possibilities co-exist. The problems are there, and they have been quite hard for all of us in the midst of the pandemic. However, alongside the problems are possibilities.
My prayer is for the capacity of humanity to see the possibilities and not just the problems. More specifically, I pray that a renewed reliance on community as the most important source of our well-being become the new ground we stand on as we move into the future together.
Whatever the problem, community is always the answer!
Note: Republished from April 15, 2020.