“No road is long with good company.”
— Turkish Proverb
Earlier this month I began a series of posts focused on what appears to be a significant loss of relationship among Americans. I wondered, “Have we given up on each other?” Your reaction to that post was significant. I posted a good number of those responses the next week. In Part 3 I offered five reasons why we may, indeed, be neglecting community and relationships.
I’d now like to begin focusing on solutions. Ways we can recommit to one another. Changes we can make to re-ignite a longing for community. I begin with this story sent to me by Nannette Cropsey. Nannette and Josh, along with their kids, now live in Amman, Jordan.
I wonder. How would you react to Nannette’s story? Here it is.
I had an experience yesterday that solidified a few things for me so let me share. My car broke down on my way home with kids from school in front of a small supermarket I had stopped at to grab a few things. I went in to tell the girl what had happened and that my husband would come by later to get the van. She insisted that no, someone would help me and she brought her older father and two brothers. They spent a lot of time under the hood of the van discussing and filled my coolant up with water. Because the van then started with no problem, the father followed me to my mechanic 15 minutes away to make sure I made it. Our mechanic, who is also a very kind man, dropped what he was doing and worked on my car for about an hour while we waited inside. In the end, he told me it was fine to drive, but that if I broke down again to just call him and he would come and get us. And I know that he would have. This was not special treatment, just another ordinary day in Jordan and how the society works. Relationship is everything. Relationship comes first. Everything comes second to relationship, and you don’t make appointments to see people a month in advance. Instead, you call a few hours before and let them know you are coming. Covid changed many things in this society, but it did not make people more individualistic or want to spend time alone. I believe for this reason, in a country where the majority live below middle class, the depression, anxiety, and suicide rate are much lower.
I already know how this would have played out in the USA and I can’t be angry at that. We are raised to be independent, individualistic, and self-sufficient—we push our kids to be this. I also personally think loyalty is not one of our top values. I think Covid made us more aware of our individualism and independence. Add to that a polarizing political situation and I think many decided gathering was no longer worth it.
I wasn’t surprised to read what you said about pastors doing away with community groups. Community groups have been American Christianity’s attempt to bring community to a culture that doesn’t know how to, or have the time to, live in true community. And in the end, I’m not 100% sure we would be willing to sacrifice what is necessary to live in community. To try and change this would require us to overhaul our culture and change it into something different. I think one of the reasons the show Friends is so popular is because our culture loves this idea of living in a community like that. But the reality is, most of us do not have the time to cultivate a community like this as we become focused on our own family life.
What my years in Jordan have taught me is that relationship and community doesn’t happen in set meetings of 1-2 hours once or twice a month. They happen over unplanned hours and hours of coffee and tea that make you late for all kinds of things and don’t allow for 8 hours of sleep. They happen because a shop owner served you coffee, and so you sat and heard their life story and then they invited you to their home for a meal. There, will begin more community and should you ever need anything, you can call on that person and they will drop everything to help you. Real community happens when people are willing to put other people over themselves, their kid’s bedtimes, activities, and all the other American things we value so deeply.
So…what do you think about Nannette’s personal experience and perspective of community? Is Jordanian style relationship doable in our culture? Could we ever modify our values to accentuate loyalty? Could we re-engineer our approach to time to highlight people in our lives? Could we ever make relationship our prevailing value?
Again, I am interested in what you think about all this. In my final post on the subject next week, I’ll take a stab at my own conclusions and maybe include a few of yours as well.
Until then…I wish you all a wonderful kick off to this holiday season! And I wish for all of us rekindled relationships!