Recently 26 of my fellow church-mates and I went to Mexico to build a home for a family there. They were a family of 5. A mother, father and three boys. The youngest was 3. His name was Gabriel.
This family already had a home. It was in the mother’s family for a number of generations. Her grandparents lived there, her parents and now her and her family. Needless to say it was old. It was held together by random boards, it obviously leaked and was dilapidated.
We built them a new home just behind their old one. While the lot was a bit smaller than the plans called for, we were able to make the necessary adjustments. We even added a small pad and overhang to connect the new home to a small bathroom that was in the rear of the lot. While we couldn’t completely enclose the two together, we figured a shelter connecting would at least keep them out of the rain.
What struck me the most about this experience was the way the surrounding community gathered together to take part in what was happening. Daily they would come to watch, to help and to offer what little they had. They would carry buckets, shovel stuff and gave this family what little they had so this family could prepare us food.
This community was there for each other.
It made me think of how our communities function. I asked myself how many of my neighbors do I really know? When was the last time I borrowed a cup of sugar?
It seems one of the really important gifts we have is ourselves and we, with the way we live, have lost sight of it. I am talking about our neighborliness. We have lost a sense that we are neighbors for each other.
Where these people are so connected to each others lives, sharing in people’s joys and apparent struggles; we seem to stick to our own knitting and think we need to solve our own problems – by ourselves and on our own. In our society we raise our children teaching them independence, self-reliance and measure their readiness for the world on how well they can take care of themselves.
Being down there with that community, watching them and their ability to gather their labor and resources for the benefit of the community, made me wonder about our ways and how we isolate ourselves from each other. We often feel we are alone. Somehow in our hurried lives, trying to get ahead – we have been duped into thinking we are a community of one.
I wonder if we, rather than driving our cars into our garages and closing the doors behind if we could go outside, walk the neighborhood; take the time to get to know our neighbors, share in their work, help them in their lives?
I went to Mexico with church-mates to help a family in need and I came back reminded of what really matters. Where they got a house, a new home to raise their family – I got a sense of community, of what neighbors are. Success is not measured by our self-made status it is measured by our interconnectedness. I am not a community of one but many.