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.

Learning to Be Neighbors

Did you know that there are some people who still believe that the earth is the center of the universe? No amount of evidence can convince them otherwise – because all the “evidence” has been tampered with by the government. And some are pretty sure that our own government was behind the 9-11 incident. And of course, all this ecological crisis crap is a hoax devised by the liberals in order to justify tax increases. Oh yeah… those same liberals are trying to teach our kids that the earth is older than 10,000 years, and that Noah’s ark is not resting on Mt. Ararat. I’ve got, and I can look at them as I sit here, a whole pile of books on my top shelf telling me that all the “evidence” for evolution is a sham. But, even after reading all them books, them damn liberals finally deceived me and I was led off the Narrow path and onto the Broad path when I followed Mr. Worldly Wisdom and accepted the science for evolution. (I found a copy of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress the other day – brought back some good memories.)

Well, my sarcasm is less than useless and probably harmful. If we don’t think that there’s something sick about the way we humans relate to our environment, then it should at least be extremely obvious that there is something sick about the way we relate to one another concerning whether there’s something sick about the way we humans relate to our environment. I’m not going to try to figure out how we can save the environment – we’re probably past the tipping point anyway. I’m meeting simply in my home with my neighbors, and together, some of us are trying to figure out how to get along with each other in spite of the fact that we belong to the wrong religion, the wrong race, we hold the wrong political views, and none of us are very smart. I’m hoping and praying that we can get a whole lot of other neighbors to do the same thing. And then, once we figure out how to get along, maybe we can do something about the environment.

“It is our task – our essential, central, crucial task – to transform ourselves from mere social creatures into community creatures. It is the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed.”
– M. Scott Peck


Learning how to be a good neighbor implies that we need to be taught. I explained to my neighbors, as we gathered in our family room, that it is not my intention to teach them. However, that is not entirely true. I do want to teach others. There are some things that I’ve learned in my reading and in my experience, that I believe are valuable and worth sharing. I also know that all of my experiences, and everything I’ve read, has come to my conscious mind through a process of interpretation – a process which is not infallible. Therefore, all my knowledge is mixed with error. And worse, I’m not aware of where the error is. The best that I can hope for is to have “faith without certainty”. I have to trust in the Tao, or the Spirit for enlightenment – but I can never hope to be fully enlightened. Every person has a measure of light. By gathering together, we are brought into a brighter environment. When we cut ourselves off from community, we live in darkness.

The point I wanted to make when I began this post (and promptly lost track of my original intent) is the importance of one-anothering. Yes, I want to teach, but I also want to learn. This occurs in our gathering as we teach and learn from one another. We can also enjoy one another, comfort one another, heal one another, confront one another, laugh at and with one another, pray for one another, encourage one another… perhaps all this one-anothering is included in the imperative: Love your neighbor as yourself.

First Gathering

I was going to title this post, “The Beginning”, but then I remembered that the beginning began with an invitation.

Last night 12 of our neighbors (including two children) met with my wife and I in our family room. We had included with the invitation this Agenda:

• Introduction of Neighbors.
• Introduction of purpose: to create a neighborhood of neighbors, an intentional community.
○ Discuss importance of purpose.
• Introduction of primary intention: learn how to be a neighbor.
• Sharing of visions: What would a really good neighborhood be like?
○ Search for similarities in visions. 
• Snacks & further discussion. 

We followed this agenda fairly closely.

We gave a three-ring notebook to each family containing the original invitation, a page containing the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10, a page stating our purpose:

We want to learn how to be good neighbors, to develop closer and healthier relationships with our neighbors. We believe that by doing this it will change ourselves, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our nation, and the world. We believe this is not only valuable, but critically necessary. Our present way of living is simply not sustainable. Evidence from many sources point to the probable end of civilization unless a fundamental change occurs in the way we relate to other human beings and with our environment.

Ultimately (and this may sound a little crazy), we want to save the world.

A page containing our intention:

We intend to achieve our purpose of learning how to be better neighbors by creating intentional communities through small group gatherings of neighbors beginning in our home and then reproducing, spreading, and connecting these gatherings of neighbors throughout the world.

A page about the importance of these neighborhood gatherings:

Below is a partial list of possible values which may be realized as we become good neighbors. We need to make and keep a distinction between value and purpose. For instance, a possible and probable result of these gatherings may be the development of a safer neighborhood. However developing a safer neighborhood is not our purpose. If it becomes our purpose, most of the other values on this list will not be realized. We need gatherings such that every neighbor will find value in them and want to participate, but not everyone will share the same values.

And this article.

The response was excellent – far better than I was hoping for. Neighbors seemed to buy into our vision and caught some of our passion. Especially exciting was the participation of the children.

Next week should be interesting.

Getting Started

The bible really doesn’t say, “Charity begins at home”, although according to some poll I read somewhere, most Americans think so. However, home is a good place to start saving the world from. So, I’m starting with those who live close by, beginning with an invitation which my wife and I will begin handing out door-to-door. Saving the world must begin with an invitation: Won’t you be my neighbor?

At the first meeting (unless no one shows up) it will be important to clarify what the purpose of the meeting is. It will be important to gain a commitment from participants to listen and withhold judgment. It will be important to share some of my vision and encourage them to imagine a different, healed world – beginning with our neighborhood. Finally, it will be important to gain a commitment to become a neighbor – to learn along side of my wife and I about how to love.

A Vision will need to be articulated and accepted
An agreement of how we will relate to one another will need to be created.
The practice of dialog and the art of silent listening will need to be taught.
Leadership will need to be defined, nourished and allowed to function.
A rhizome structure of organization rather than a hierarchical structure will need to grow and evolve.