Terry asked me last night, “Do you think anyone will show up?” I looked outside at the ditches filled with water and the cloudy sky overhead and replied, “Nope.”
A few minutes later, the doorbell rang and there was Faithful Joe. We’ve had a few gatherings with just Joe, Terry and myself. Then, a few minutes later I see someone walking up the street wearing a rain jacket. Sure enough, she comes to our door and there stands Roma! So, even with 4 inches of rain on the ground, neighbors show up. It reassured me that these gatherings have value. During our conversation (which was excellent, btw), I was reminded of the purpose of these gatherings, and how unique an effort this is.

Purpose: We want to learn how to be good neighbors. Pretty simple. As I wrote in a previous message, at least three things are required in the learning process: awareness, intention, and practice. I’m convinced that one of the things we must become aware of, in order to learn to become good neighbors, is our interdependence.

Last night a metaphor for community came to me that I haven’t thought about in quite awhile. Being in community is like being a coal in a fire. Each coal depends upon its neighbors to stay alive. Take one coal and set it aside and soon its heat is gone. Add it back to the fire, and it begins to contribute its own fuel, its own resources to its neighbors.

So, we don’t gather in order to get the city of North Port to do something about our streets. We don’t gather to solve one another’s problems. We don’t gather in order to determine who has the truest religion, or convince one another that we have the correct political view. We don’t gather because we are looking for other birds with our kind of feathers. Our purpose becomes evident with the very first thing we do – we might call it our opening ritual. Each of us in turn does a “check-in” by answering the question, “How ya doin’?”, and then we listen. That’s really all it takes to begin caring about one another. We don’t have to “fix” anything or anybody. We can learn to accept one another without having to agree with their opinions or approve of their choices. We discover that we really don’t need to take ourselves or our neighbors too seriously. Sometimes, the answer to “How ya doin’?” is pretty damn funny.

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