Homes and Life in Community – to understand the need for community we need to get our perspective right by looking at the big picture. Where does my life fit in? Then how do we all fit together as human beings? We were built for community and were not created to live in isolation. Our experience in many parts of Australia during the Covid lockdown highlighted this.
‘C.S. Lewis’s allegory on hell and heaven pictures hell as a dreary city with many boarded-up houses. In this place people’s relationships break down, and they move farther and farther away from their neighbours.’
Solitary confinement has been used as a punishment to great effect in various situations. Of course, there are times when most of us crave some time on our own, but in the real sense of a solitary life where a person is remote from society and destitute of company, it is generally not a choice, or if it is, there is usually an underlying fear or distrust of people. Solitary confinement doesn’t only happen in despotic regimes, but its effects can be devastating, nonetheless. Deafness, the inability to communicate and language barriers are other ways in which people can be cut off from others. Technology can be a barrier, too. Texting, emailing, shopping online, working online, may subtly displace the human connection while giving us the idea that we really have connected.
‘The community aspect of life needs to be a part of a child’s everyday experience. How children are brought up affects how they’ll live later on. Strange as it may seem, play time is a vital part of a child’s preparation for being fully involved in the local community as an adult.’
The word ‘community’ is a derivative the word ‘common’ and has the sense of belonging, as in ‘our common humanity.’ I’ve been involved in various church communities since I was 19 years of age. In biblical terms the Church is called ‘The Body.’ Just like our physical body each part has a role and no part is greater than another. Old & young, smart and simple, male and female, child and adult – so many differences but all are important. Someone asked me the other day how my youngest ‘socialised’ or made friends when she didn’t go to school. It’s been different for her being the youngest as all her siblings mostly grew up together but in the past few years three of them married, another two moved out of home and the one left at home is at work during the day. Her two best friends are not her own age – one is two years younger; the other is about 18 months older. She is also friends with a young married women who used to lead the youth group before she had a baby. Every few months they meet up and have a day out with a couple of other friends and go into the city or have an activity such as zip lining (aerial tree courses).
Community living isn’t always easy especially in a church setting where so many different people are knocking the edges off each other, but it can be so rich. One of the reasons I love the idea of home education is that it allows for the different ages and stages to do life together. I was really disappointed when I went to high school and found that I wasn’t in any classes with my friends so I don’t understand the reasoning that kids need to go to school to ‘socialise.’ None of the kids I ‘socialised’ with became my friends. I found them outside of the classroom. How did I get onto that?…that’s right, I was talking about community – and that can happen anywhere and in unexpected places if we make an effort. We don’t have to find it among people our own age or among our own nationality or even among those with the same interests!
I was inspired by this video of Gardening Australia which interviews a young mum who started a community garden, seed swaps, street library and other free services as a means of not only providing food for the family but as a way to connect with others. The community now has 1400 members and about 20 to 30 visitors a day.
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay said of her upbringing that ‘My imagination was educated for caring.’ We are God’s hands and feet, and it’s very clear in both the Old and New Testaments that God places high importance on looking after those on the outskirts of society, the orphans, the widowed, the destitute. Children need to see this in action; to be educated for caring.
In this chapter Susan explains more about the importance of play and a regular routine in a young child’s life and its link with duty and responsibility:
‘If children had free time all day, play would not be so delicious. Even the baby has balance in the day, which he or she learns through peaceful routine. Learning to fit into a structure is all-important. Life has a structure to which we adjust; we do not just follow our impulses such as what “I want” or “I feel like…” rather it should be, “What is it time for?” Later on this idea naturally evolves into the concept “What should I be doing?” Or “What ought I to do now?” (Note: In this way we learn about duty and responsibility.)
Parents are Peacemakers. Susan shares some thoughts on the role of parents as peacemakers and mentions a booklet written by Essex Cholmondely (Charlotte Mason’s biographer) and says that:
‘Making peace is our adult responsibility…In creating the true ‘Charlotte Mason childhood,’ parents make no habitual recourse to television’s “virtual reality” to handle difficult, fussy moments. Such random use would deprive the growing child of the opportunity to develop a treasure house of inner riches to cope with the normal ups and downs of life.’
Nancy @ Sage Panassus has made this booklet available on her blog: Six Talks with Parents on Bringing Up Children
When I first read For the Family’s Sake years ago, I couldn’t get the story at the end of this chapter out of my mind. At the end of a church service in their large church, Susan and her husband got chatting to a man who said he’d been attending that church for over twenty years:
‘His wartime boyhood had scarred him; he was reserved. We wanted to share our Christmas dinner with someone who was alone, and we invited him. Although the shops had been closed when we invited him, he brought me a gift of sweet-smelling lotion, a treat I could not afford. We discovered he had bought this gift and others, “Just in case I was invited out.” Later we heard that ours was the first home ever to invite him in for a shared meal.
Oh, busy Christian church! Oh, fellow human beings! We need to take time for each other. This is right. Share this way of life with every child. It is the way to live now and into the future.’