by Lisa DeRosa
Home. What does that word mean to you? What feelings are elicited from its utterance?
Taking a small step outside, how about neighborhood? Are these feelings different? Maybe more distant? Or maybe community is a synonym for your thoughts about neighborhood?
Continue to extend this thought experiment out to city/town, region, country, continent, world, and universe. How connected do you feel as it broadens and the distance increases?
In thinking about where I currently live and my sense of place, this year has drawn me to really take notice of my surroundings. I left my place of work about a year and a half years ago, not knowing what God was going to provide next. After a journey of several months trying this job and that job, I began working for Christine and Tom starting in February this year. It is the shortest commute I could ever imagine because I live in their basement unit. So living where I do and working at home regardless of Covid, I have structured my day to include excursions out into the garden and plenty of walks around the neighborhood. In these walks, I witness the Black Lives Matter posters, the teddy bears in the windows, the vegetables that neighbors are growing, the kiddos that thank the garbage man every Thursday, the empty little free libraries… and I wonder to myself, how am I impacting my neighborhood? Or am I, even?
As the air quality has been particularly unhealthy over the last two weeks here in Seattle, I have not ventured outside much. Feeling the effects of the smoke in the air as well as the lack of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, I feel as though I am disconnected from my place. Inside, home is still the same, but I haven’t walked around the neighborhood or nearby park, explored the garden to smell the flowers or pick raspberries for two weeks now. And I miss it.
With Covid restrictions and the fires taking over the West coast, I know others are struggling to find their sense of sanity through their normal coping mechanisms of walking outside, grabbing coffee with a friend, hosting a gathering in their home, etc. Others are having to evacuate their place without knowing if they will have anything to return to. That is the reality for so many right now and I pray for all those involved from the victims to the fire fighters.
In reflecting on your sense of place, where you are right now in this moment? Are you present? Do you feel connected to your surroundings?
This idea of place has been radically challenged for me in reading and listening to Dwight Friesen and Tom Sine talk about their newest book, 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change. A section in the book on reflecting on and knowing your place reads:
“You are not everywhere. You are somewhere. You may have moved many times or lived on the same plot of land your whole life. You are somewhere right now. There is a place you call home. Your place is God’s gift to you and those who share it with you. Your place is your teacher. Your place doesn’t force itself on you; it is the kind of teacher that whispers to you. It invites you to slow down and listen. It woos you to mindful attention to the impact of your foot-prints. It bids you to notice and seek communion with all its inhabitants. Place is the platform to discover the real. The primary thing place teaches, if we will listen, is faithful presence.” (2020s Foresight, 176-177)
The notion of slowing down and listening hit home during the first few months of our “stay home, stay safe” order. It forced me to schedule all plans as possibilities, stop traveling, and stay in my place. So I could really listen. So I could hear the sounds of the birds, not muffled by the sounds of traffic or planes overhead. To listen to the sound of the rain falling on the leaves in the garden. And listen to the sirens of first responders helping those in need.
Listening to, reflecting on, and knowing your place allows the opportunity for God to move not only in your heart and your home, but in your neighborhood as your sense of place extends outside of just your dwelling space.
I am grateful for Tom and Dwight sharing their insights with me as I have worked with them, but also that they share them in their book. The examples given are of real people, living in real places, who have reflected on and know the place God has them in as they seek to positively impact their neighborhood. How are you impacting your neighborhood? Or are you?
If you have thoughts about this, please comment. I am looking for creative ways to love the people in my place, too.