Living in this land without dishwashers, we’ve learned a few things about community. The first one is pretty obvious.
1) Community is messy.
And of course I mean this both literally and figuratively.
Whatever community you find yourself in, whether it’s intentional community with homeless people sleeping on your couch (probably not) or just your close circle of friends and family–you and your spouse, friends who come over for a movie and popcorn, or the extended relatives for a twice-a-year holiday feast—it’s still messy. Who hasn’t in some way experienced community right inside the four walls of her house, and who hasn’t experienced the physical mess it leaves behind? It’s dishes in the sink, clutter on the coffee table, dirty towels in the bathroom, dirt on the welcome mat.
That’s what having people sharing the same space does, even if you’re the kind of person who pays someone else to clean it up for you when it’s all said and done. You’ve seen the mess, so you know what I’m saying.
But figuratively, too. Think of your broader communities and the “messes” you’ve experienced.
Your church: how many fights among church members have you witnessed? Angry business meetings over important issues (doctrine) AND not-so-important issues (carpet)? The unwillingness to serve as Sunday school teachers? The controversial decision to use real dishes over Styrofoam at potlucks? Certainly I’ve never encountered that sort of mess.
Your workplace: Gossip? Wasted time on E-mail and Facebook? Bottom-line thinking and quarterly reports? Silly rules about memo-formatting?
Your neighborhood: Upset neighbors over delinquent teenagers, or dog poo, or piles of leaves, or dandelions?
Your town? (local taxes, school board elections, petty crime) Your state? (Strip-mining, public school funding, mountain top removal) Our country? (Big mess all the way around).
In fact, maybe we need to add some sub-points.
1) Community is messy. a) It takes hard work to clean up a mess. b) The longer you put off doing the work, the bigger the mess gets.
Here’s what I’ve found to be true:
The better the community that we have (that is, the more involved we are in each other’s lives, the more time we offer of ourselves and our space, the more people we have over for dinner when we don’t have a dishwasher), well, the BIGGER THE MESS IS. The more you know people, the harder it is to live with them. Or, I should say, the more work it takes to live with them.
My friends, it is always easier not to have community.
It’s always easier to buy a dishwasher.