My porch got painted last Saturday. I invited every friend I had to help, and about 20 people showed up. These were mostly “do-er” types who loved to lend a hand, building community around task-sharing. It’s deep within us to enjoy working together, particularly during crises or times of stress…and my new porch really needed a coat of paint before winter.
There was Kendra, the mistress of details, who joyfully painted in tiny arcs on the spindles. Chad and Jake went at the high places with a broad brush, diving into the task with their whole selves, as they are wont to do in normal life. Scott, the artist, spent time lovingly painting spindles, too, but switched to stripping decades of paint from the brasswork above the door; he uncovered something special that the rest of us would not have noticed. Shari lovingly watched the children play together, and took an occasional photo…images that will almost certainly capture the memory with clarity and wit. Nicole and Kevin took to the main color, using big buckets and working with their trademark quiet focus. Walter and Brian hated paint, but took to some carpentry repairs with military efficiency. The list could go on of the personalities I love, caring for my home and for me in a way I may never be able to repay.
However, it’s possible to see my crew in a different light: Several had recent injuries or degenerative joint issues; one was pregnant and very tired; a few suffer from moderate to severe depression; some are painfully shy, having to work hard to stay connected; quite a few have financial woes and family troubles. The list could go on of their secret heartaches and stumbling blocks, many of which I’ve been entrusted to know.
But as a community, we have a tacit agreement to look beyond one another’s deficiencies and problems in order to get jobs done and to care for one another. Nothing was ever built with deficiencies and problems, but only with gifts and capacities.
How often do we see our families that way? Or our blocks? Or Dayton’s Bluff? Too often, we allow social service agencies, governmental bodies, and even nonprofit corporations to label our problems, claiming that those labels enable experts to fix those problems.
What would happen in our community and block club meetings if we started thinking about how to connect our gifts and capacities? What if we made that same tacit agreement in our neighborhoods that we make with our friends: to overlook people’s problems and deficiencies in order to get things done together?
I believe that everyone has gifts to share—gifts of the hands, gifts of the heart, and gifts of the mind. I also believe that in our broken world, people don’t always have the opportunity, the time, or the confidence to share their gifts. In particular, “labeled people”—the elderly, new immigrants, youth, single mothers, the disabled—suffer not from a lack of gifts but from being labeled, and the way that label can push them into the margins of our community. We’re more likely to see their label than their passions and gifts.
I believe we have the power to re-build our community by unleashing the gifts and capacities of our neighbors, our associations, our organizations, and even our businesses. If you believe that, too, consider joining our working group to start connecting the assets, gifts, and capacities of Dayton’s Bluff. We meet every three weeks on Tuesday evenings at Pastor Hamilton’s BBQ at 1150 7th Street at 6:30 pm. Our last meeting was September 20. Why not join us October 11?