Thursday, November 08, 2007

November Devotion - Community

In this 21st century of individualism, where people drive into their garages and close the doors to the world, briefly acknowledge family members before flopping on the couch in front of the television or plugging I Pod buds in their ears, or sitting in front of their computer, there is an Eden of community. A place where people learn to be a part of the whole. This place in Greatham, England is called L'Abri.

L'Abri, French for shelter, is just that for the people who come seeking answers, peace, rest. I spent two days there and wish I'd stayed longer. What I found there was something I hadn't realized I'd lost. Community.

Students of all ages, races, and from many different countries live together dormitory style in a large 18th century manor home. There's no television and the internet is limited. However, there is a library filled with books addressing spiritual, emotional, and physical health as well as reference books. There is also a study room filled with tapes where one can listen to lectures from prominent spiritual teachers. Those staying at the manor are encouraged to spend part of the day reflecting, reading, and studying.

Life at the manor isn't all study. Students also work together. Some prepare meals, some clean, and some work on the grounds. After enjoying breakfast together in the dining room, the students check the daily work schedule to see what they are to do for that day. All through the house people spoke while mopping floors, hummed while sorting a mountain of laundry, and laughed together while chopping carrots freshly pulled from the garden. People who were once perfect strangers, now doing life together.

Meals are always enjoyed together. During Sunday lunch and the weekly evening meals a subject is tossed out. All are invited, even encouraged, to join in the discussion--which can be very lively at times. But no one is ridiculed or put down for their input.

On chilly nights a fire dances in the parlor hearth where students gather after the evening meal to talk, read, or play board games. Someone may play the piano, others bring their guitars, and fill the room with music. It was all about community. A place where people are valued and weaknesses are patiently overlooked.

I'm reminded of a time when conversation, music and books were the main source of entertainment and pleasure instead of television. A time when people looked each other in the eye when they spoke. A time when conversation sparked ideas, changed history. If I were to paint a picture of my experience at L'Abri it would look like a Norman Rockwell. I came away from there wishing for that same spirit of community in my hometown. Then it occurred to me that my desire was possible.How? It must begin with me in my own home.

This Thanksgiving is a good time to remember community starting with your family and friends, and practice it from now on. If you know of someone who has no place to go during the holidays, invite them to your home. Let them help and be a part of the family. Take the time to listen to those around you. Be patient with those you don't agree with. Spend time playing together.

And whatever you do, don't forget to help mom clean up the kitchen!!!!!