By Ruth Smith, Community Engagement Coach
Our community groups are going well – full of conversation and relationship building.
The community dinner and dialogue group brings together members of our congregation with community members –residents, service providers, public servants, interested citizens. We eat dinner together and then talk about issues related to an abundant community. There are seven elements of an abundant community, which a group of us documented during a community walk last week. These include care, raising children, health, safety and security, resilient economy, local food production, and environment. The foundation of an abundant community is recognizing and connecting the gifts of individuals in the neighborhood as well as offering hospitality.
Last month, our focus was on care and how we, as individuals do not just serve, but care, for the most vulnerable in our communities. The week after our conversation, I was waiting at the stop sign to turn outside the West Lafayette Payless and there was a mom and her young son on the corner, camped out with folding chairs and a sign asking for money for food and gas. The car in front of me took FOREVER to turn so I spent a lot of time watching them. The first thing I noticed is that the mom wore a headscarf. So, I was thinking about a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend of mine in the Muslim community who was talking about the divide between the professional families and those who need more financial assistance and the capacity of the mosque to provide for them. So it got me thinking about who I could call to offer community support. Then, I was thinking about what service providers I could refer them to. And then, whether or not I could grab some of the 4 boxes of Cheerios I just bought to give to them (especially considering I splurged on some really nice pieces of fish for dinner) and how I would get them out of the trunk with the kids in the car. And during all these unproductive thoughts, a young woman got out of a van parked in front of them and came over to give a hug to the mom. It looked like she either knew them or gave them something they needed. So, why couldn't I help? And at this point, it was time to make my turn. I'm still thinking about it. How could I have shown better care? Not just meeting needs, but care.
In both groups, I encourage everyone to continue to get to know their neighbors. In whatever part of the city we live in, we do not know our neighbors particularly well. Let's all be intentional about learning the names of our neighbors, talking with them, take them cookies, and check in on them if you haven't seen them in their normal routine in a while. These might be the people who live next door to us. Or, our neighbors could be the people we sit next to or who serve us at the coffee shop we go to 5 days a week. But just think about how these relationships have the power to transform our lives, the lives of the people around us, and our communities!
Join us for the next community small group on Monday, November 13 at 7 pm in the Church Parlor. This is a great opportunity to invite friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. The focus is on community issues, and we seek to create a safe place for people to share their experiences. This month, we will be talking about supporting healthy lives. Individual behavior, social relationships, and physical environment are the major factors determining our health level. These factors are closely related to our local community ties. When we act together, we produce primary sources of health; but how does disconnect affect our health and the health of others? Caring for yourself and your health is important on a spiritual level as well. It glorifies God and is being a good witness. Plus, the healthier you are, the more energy you have to do what God has planned for you. What is one other reason that you think God wants us to be healthy? We will explore what healthy living means within a community context, and how we can better support our health and the health of others.
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