In the midst of good, hard, two-hands-to-the-plow living lately, I’ve run out of room in my days to talk about it. There’s a lot happening in me and my house. I may have to tackle this in baby chunks.
We had some heart-breakingly beautiful work parties last week at the house. It was hard work. There is only one thing that will entice someone to kneel in bat poo and pull 4,000 staples out of the stinking eaves of your old house (eavesdroppings) and that, friends, is called love. Also insanity.
I kept thinking last week that I was blessed beyond words. But it might be impossible to bless me out of my words, and wordlessness then was probably just the long days and lack of sleep [not] talking, and I try to avoid shortcutting thank-you’s – borrowing prefabricated quips without attempt to express in our own words what only we are feeling.
We are not letting our friends and family give up work days, free days, time and money better spent in other places to work with us because communal projects are tres chic. They owe us nothing, they’re giving us everything, and we cannot repay them. It’s hard to accept that kind of help.
I still struggle with the embarrassment of not having very much. (Not the stuff so much, but the money, as a means to good ends.) Then I recall things like the global orphan crisis and I feel embarrassed about feeling embarrassed. Living in this place in this time, with a bed, food, and a husband whom I chose to marry already gives me a lot more than most women in the world.
But the facts of life according to my bank account are that due to circumstances beyond our control (and why do I feel the need to say so and isn’t everything including my ability to brush my teeth ultimately beyond my control), we would not have many things without some radically generous people – and definitely would not have a house.
Certainly not one with functioning outlets and a breaker box that won’t light itself on fire.
When I flash you helpers a thumbs-up and say, “We couldn’t do it without you,” I do mean it. This is need and not formalities talking.
It should be more beautiful than it is to me.
I’ve spent years trying to communicate to my more urban / industrialized / isolated world the beauty of my Anabaptist roots that insist on barn raisings and carry-in dinners. That’s community the way it’s meant to be – meeting needs without ceremony or committee.
That’s the church, man.
Everything I know about the Christian faith says that nobody makes it alone, and shouldn’t I already have processed that? We Westerners tend to worship independence (and eat alone and take Prozac – not that granola bars and depression are direct results of Western life). Those of us rich enough to opt into community and simplicity, dip our toes in it while retaining the option of running away screaming, still wield something that our culture regards as privilege. That’s the privilege of privacy, of not sharing yourself, of saying, “I’m quite fine, how ‘bout you mind your business.”
I can’t opt out of community.
And even though it pains and embarrasses me – and everything I do says HELPLESS in bold ugly letters – I’m beginning to regard even that as a privilege.
It’s good for my soul. (By which I mean it is making me better by ripping me into little pieces and stomping on my dreams and forcing me to fight self-loathing at every turn.) It’s forcing me not to feel secure in places that are not safe. It’s making me more aware of my needs, whether for protein or for love. It’s making me into the kind of person who (should I ever in my life generate this thing named money) might have more finely tuned radar for others in need, since I’ll have recognized it for so long in myself.
The bat poo appendix
I hesitate to publish posts like this for several reasons.
- Do I sound like I’m begging? I’m totally not. (We’re doing much better these days.)
- It’s like one of those nightmares where you forget to get dressed. Exposure stinks. Also:
- Who actually wants to read this?
I publish them, sometimes, because:
- Material need helps us recognize our helplessness, in general, as human beings working out our broken lives on a broken planet.
- And you may have forgotten what it’s like to have material needs. And sometimes people who’ve forgotten do hurtful things, or don’t do helpful things.
- Some people actually like that I’ve said these things – because, hey, I’m not alone.
- Because I’ve been so moved by the generosity of others, I hold loosely to the couple of quarters I’ve been entrusted with. I’ve been helped into a state where I can help other people, and I live peacefully, knowing that so many people will catch me if I fall on harder times again. I have become an evangelist of the gospel of helping in simple ways without ceremony, and
- I can’t help myself (double entendre).