Friday, December 2, 2011

Elements of Community - Contribution of All

When my nephew was still a toddler, he would watch my brothers play video games and inevitably ask to join in. They would give him an unplugged controller and explain to him his objective. He would spend the next five to ten minutes, depending upon his attention span, mashing buttons indiscriminately, convinced that we was playing some crucial part in this game. At some point, he would ask, "Which guy am I?"

"You're the blue one," one of my brothers would respond.

Puzzled, he would retort, "Well, why isn't he going where I'm telling him to go?"

That's mean, right? Making a kid think he has just helped win the Stanley Cup when all he has really done is put a little more wear on an already broken controller. Sadly, this parallels the way many of our communities function. Sure, we tell ourselves that everyone has to play their part in order for us to get where we need to go, but that is not the way we choose our roles and design our systems. The harsh reality is that most communities have heroes and victims - the people that fix and the people that need fixing. There is this subtle, yet impenetrable, wall that partitions those serving from those being served. Those that serve stay busy cleaning up the messes of the others, and their gifts are exalted as indispensable for the life of the community. Those that are served are coddled, get accustomed to the attention and buy into the lie that they really don't have anything to contribute after all. But, the system continues because egos on both sides are appeased. Heroes celebrate their altruistic martyrdom and functionality; victims enjoy the entitlement and the center of attention status. But, it could be different. (See Romans 12:6-7)

I wish I could say that we in the Sombra Road House have it all figured out. Sadly, we display the same tendency to fall into typecast roles of fixers and the fixed. I think I came to Brasil with this notion that I was in a position where I had everything to give. The guys come from spots where they were more convinced of their needs than their gifts. This makes for a deadly combo. I would say we are starting to make some adjustments in this area. This entails three postures. First, we have to help the guys recognize their gifts. Second, we have to situate the weight of the community on these gifts. Third, we have to allow our egos to recede to the point where we can abdicate control and allow for mistakes. The cool thing that I've discovered in ceasing to play the hero is that my wife and I are far more blessed by these guys' presence in our lives than we had imagined and far more dependent on their gifts than we had thought. Additionally, as the guys explore their strengths in service, our community becomes more three dimensional as it breaks from the restraining mold that I impose upon it. We have a long way to go, but acknowleding that doesn't depress me. I look at examples like L'Arche (which I would encourage you to explore as an example of community) and am hopeful of what lies before us. It's time to plug in the controllers.  

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