Last night we gathered for our neighborhood dinner where every week we gather with around twenty of our neighbors to share a meal and our lives. One of our newest attendees is a vivacious 6-year-old girl who loves it so much that she convinced her aunt who was watching her for the evening to bring her! Of course, the big draw are the little friends her age who live in our downstairs apartment. However, I have to believe that this is only a piece of the puzzle — for we are all hard-wired for community.
You see, there is also Fred, the doting grandpa, who doesn't yet have grandchildren of his own, but who brings treats for the kids every week (and the dogs for that matter) and kindly engages them in play while their parents eat. And we can't go without mentioning Patmon, the sweet golden retriever who serves as a therapy dog by day and the consummate playful companion by night. You add in delicious and plentiful food, raucous conversations, and the warmth and energy of fitting twenty people around the table — and it's no wonder this is becoming a beloved event even for our smallest members.
One thing I know is that when the community comes together, anything is possible. You can feel it palpable in the air. Already, the gifts of the community are being activated. We have gardeners and want-to-be gardeners. We have cooks and those who aspire to. We have tired parents and doting aunts and uncles. We have students who struggle with homework and teachers who offer guidance. We have those with construction skills and those who panic at the sight of a hammer. We have neighborhood activists, marathon runners, cyclists, and beer connoisseurs. We have engineers, therapists, doulas, and business owners. Ours is a diverse community — and one can begin to sense that when we come together, there is nothing we can't solve.
And this is where the dreaming happens. When we begin to grasp that we are not consumers, but citizens, with the power to create a community where everyone can thrive. And I am beginning to hear this around the table these days. For the conversation is subtly changing from what can I do? to what can WE do? And the slightest of shifts brings about an entirely new set of possibilities. For when we move from powerlessness and the overwhelming feeling that there is little we can do — we are filled with a fierce and burgeoning hope that when we offer our gifts in concert with the gifts of the entire community, dreams really do come true.
And so I encourage you this week to let new imaginations stir within you. What are you dreaming about? What good in the world would you like to see that seems currently out of reach? What injustices around you tug at your heart? Like Jesus, what moves you with compassion? What hopes keep stubbornly rising?
And before you censor yourself and give yourself every good reason why this won't work, and quit before you begin — get in a room with your community, some friends, some pilgrims, some neighbors. Share your dreams and see if there might be a collective dream that arises.
Because like my 6-year-old neighbor and her aunt, who taking it all in, told me she was inspired to think about how she could do this in her own neighborhood, you too might begin to appreciate the abundance of riches found in community and realize that anything is possible.
by Jessica Ketola