guest post and photos by Kaisa Stenberg-Lee,
When the pandemic hit our corner of the world, we had recently moved to a new home and were only beginning to get to know our neighbors. To our surprise, we received messages from people next to us and across the street reaching out for connection and support. All through the pandemic, our neighbors continued to be an incredible gift to us.
My husband and I have always loved long evening walks in whatever neighborhood we lived in. During the pandemic, our walks were sprinkled with friendly greetings by by-passers and my regular stops by the many Little Free Libraries along the way. More often than not, we returned home with new book treasures and with the much needed real-life connection with the outside world. I was especially thankful for our neighbors’ generous book-sharing when the public library had to close their doors for a period of time.
It was inspiring to see the generosity, creativity, and care of so many around me. I found little seed and vegetable sharing boxes, free little art galleries, art and craft material-sharing boxes, blessing boxes, little free food pantries, hope-filled art murals, paper hearts on windows, chalk rainbows on sidewalks, encouraging garden signs, and more. They were popping up all around the city!
As a spiritual director, crafter and writer, I spend much of my time listening to God with people from all over the world and sharing prayer practices and tools with others. When the pandemic hit, like many others, all of my work moved to behind screens. And while my community expanded greatly, reaching many parts of the world, I also lost physical felt-nearness with the local, praying community. I longed to share the gift of communal, tangible prayers with my neighbors.
Over the past several years, I discovered that I enjoy praying the most while I am creating with my hands, and walking or bicycling. Connection to my body’s movement and creativity have become rich pathways to prayer. As I have nurtured these practices in my own life, they have found their way into my work as a spiritual director, especially as a praying companion to children. Children have been the most generous and faithful guides for me in this journey of learning to pray with my body and listening to my body in prayer.
As a listening companion to children, I have been on a journey of crafting prayer spaces and prayer playthings that draw the eyes and hands of a child like a magnet, and that come with a sign “The kingdom of God is at hand. Please touch!”. 
I began to wonder, what it would be like to create a tiny prayer space in our neighborhood that would attract children and adults alike to pause, wonder and touch? A place for connectedness, play, and rest. A kind of “pilgrimage trail post” along the ordinary walk in the neighborhood, where we may encounter an invitation to listen to our own longing for God in a way that it could be touched, felt inside, and expressed.
As we begin to reconnect in this post-pandemic period, part of the healing is the work of rebuilding attachment to our geographical place, culture, and the people closest to our home. There is great value and significance in our engagement with the place and culture we live in. Humans are the happiest and healthiest when they live in communities where they are known. Our bodies were made to feel the felt sense of other bodies, nature, and places.
Some ways we can rebuild trust, create safety, and foster intimacy with the place we find ourselves in are: get to know the names of our neighbors, take regular walks in the streets surrounding our home, visit local businesses, learn about the history, culture, and traditions of the people who inhabited in the past and currently inhabit our environment, study and protect the native wildlife and vegetation, and honor the stories and traditions surrounding us.
In my own search for a deeper connection with the physical community I inhabit, I decided to create a Little Free Prayer Library ― a neighborhood prayer-sharing box for children and adults, right in front of our home. And in fact, even the building of it became a community effort as one of our skilled neighbors offered us his help in installing the library in our front yard!
I wonder, how are you rediscovering your calling and commitment to the place and people who you live amongst?
Denver-locals, please pop by our Little Free Prayer Library any time! I can’t wait to start sharing prayers with you!
And if you feel inspired to start your own Little Free Prayer Library, I would love for you to join me in encouraging children and adults to pray everywhere, anytime, and in every way, by spreading tiny sidewalk prayer-sharing boxes in communities around the world.
You can find more resources and inspiration at www.kutsucompanions.com/little-free-prayer-library. Follow hashtags #LittleFreePrayerLibrary and #OurPrayingHands on Instagram and check out @KutsuCompanions profile. If you create your own Little Free Prayer Library make sure to tag @KutsuCompanions so Kaisa can share your images with others in her stories!
Links & Resources
-  Please Touch by Peter A. McMahon and Edwin M. Campbell
- My Monastery Is A Minivan: Where the Daily Is Divine and the Routine Becomes Prayer by Denise Roy
- The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak
- The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God by Christine Aroney-Sine
- Hello, Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell (Picture Book)
- What Grew in Larry’s Garden by Laura Alary (Picture Book)
- Maybe God Is Like That Too by Jennifer Grant (Picture Book)
- Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham (Picture Book)
This blog article was originally written for and published at Companioning Center. It was skillfully edited by Audre Rickard. You can reach Audre via her website for Spiritual Companioning editing services at: www.audrerickard.com.
Bio for Kaisa Stenberg-Lee
Kaisa Stenberg-Lee is a Finland native, and a recent Colorado resident. Prior to moving to Denver, she served as a children’s and family pastor at an international church in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. She is a trained spiritual director, and currently offers one-with-one spiritual direction, retreats, and workshops for children and adults through her private practice, Kutsu Companions. You can learn more about Kaisa and her ministry at: www.kutsucompanions.com, and connect with her on social media @KutsuCompanions.
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