In which I find I already have what I’m looking for.

For my first book of the year I threw a dart at my TBR pile and it landed on Start With Hello by Shannan Martin.

I knew after the first chapter that this book would change my life.

You see, I am in a season of life where I am thinking deeply about everything. Questioning everything. I regularly (daily) wonder what my purpose is. I often think How did I get here? I second guess my past decisions and try not to fear things that are out of my control.

I wake up to a day that is a carbon copy of the days before … wake up kids, get them breakfast, pack their lunches, take them to school and then come home to an empty house. The paying jobs I do have are all done at the computer. Alone. In this empty house. I usually work out, either riding the bike trainer or running on the treadmill, both in our garage. I tackle some often overdue cleaning project. I run errands … go to the grocery store, take the car in for an oil change, stop by the library. I try to think of what to make for dinner. And then I go pick up kids from school.

My life is feels like the movie Groundhog Day.

I find being a stay at home mom to be extremely hard. My personality was not made to be a stay at home mom. And yet here I am.

Start With Hello talks about how life is about community. About seeking out and investing in relationships with those around you. About stepping outside your comfort zone in order to open the door to community with those in your neighborhood.

Shannan is a gifted writer and has a way with words that makes me want to smack the book down and stand up and applaud. She’s both poetic and profound. And every chapter I read, I find myself wanting to do something drastic to change how I interact with our neighbors.

The other morning I had just finished a chapter and I told my husband that I wanted to move. To relocate to a community where we were would be forced to interact with our neighbors regularly. (FYI, suburbia creates a lot of barriers to life in community. Fences and garage doors are essentially walls between people. The American Dream seems to go directly against what Jesus asks of us.) So I wanted to move to a more urban neighborhood. We tabled that decision and promised to revisit it at a later time.

The following morning I decided we didn’t have to move to dive into relationship with our neighbors. I told my husband that I wanted to start a monthly taco night and invite all our neighbors within a five house radius. I’d make invitations and give them to everyone, even those who we’ve lived near for more than a decade and only interacted with a handful of times. Even the neighbors from the dysfunctional house on the corner where the police regularly visit and the teenage kids smoke pot and whose garage is burned by a poorly thrown molotov cocktail.

Everyone is invited to taco night.

Each morning I get up and read a chapter in Shannan’s book and I feel moved to do something. What she says deeply resonates with me and makes me want to join her. Hallelujah and Amen.

So this morning I’m feeling inspired again, after reading a chapter. My husband has left early for work, so I’m on my own to process what I’ve read. I know I deeply desire community. And I think I need to do something intentional to find it.

And then here’s how the morning went down.

  • At 7:30 am I leave to walk my son to school. On the way, I chat with the crossing guard as we’re crossing the street. We talk about how we’re glad the ice has melted and how more snow might be coming today. And she says she’ll be sending me a text because they’ll need some help in the lunchroom at school.
  • As we approach the line of kids waiting for the bell to ring, I see a man standing with one of Tyce’s classmates. I introduce myself to him (Zack) because I realize he is the uncle of Heath, a friend of Tyce’s and that Cara is going home with him because she’s going to youth group with her friend Elize, Heath’s sister. Zack and I exchange numbers for easier communication later that day.
  • As I’m heading off, Tyce’s teacher is heading towards the door and waves at me, and I wave back in solidarity, knowing he’s about to engage in hours of time with dozens of pre-adolescent 10 year olds.
  • A few steps later, a mom of another student, and also a sub at the school says hello and we stop and talk for a few minutes about our new car and the road trip we took to MN and how the new car is amazing on highways.
  • Then on the walk home, I get a text from a friend who is asking if I can pick up her daughter for school because she has a migraine. I reply with “Yes, I’d be happy to! I’m so glad you asked.”
  • When I get home, I spend a minute texting a friend from church to set up lunch plans for the next week.
  • Then we leave for middle school drop off. When I drop the girls off at their school, the car that pulls into the spot next to me is the mom of a friend of Cara’s and we roll down our windows and spend ten minutes catching up, sitting in our respective cars. I ask if she’s still working at Starbucks and she tells me how she has to quit because her daughter has long Covid and she needs to support her. I tell her I’m so sorry and how hard that must be. Then we say goodbye.

And when I pull into our garage it is 8:27 AM and I realize that I’ve interacted with seven different people in just the first hour of the day. And every single one of these people are people I’ve met through our regular daily life … through just being open to relationship as I go about my day.

And it’s then that I realize … I don’t have to move downtown or host a taco night (although I still want to) or do anything extraordinary to create community. The only thing I have to do is remain open and available to the people who are already in my life.

Community is there. I just have to choose it.

How do you experience community? I’d love to hear your experience.

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