Community has vitality. It is born out of commitment. It breathes through mission. It is nurtured through disciplines. It grows through service. It rests through celebration. It is alive. More than that, it imparts life. It is this characteristic of livelihood that distinguishes a community from a mob. The best manner I know to illustrate this point is through a story I posted earlier on this blog. It goes like this.
It’s 7:30 on a Saturday evening a few years back, and I’m driving 12 kids home after a visit to the mall. We travel 10 minutes down a narrow dirt road, bordered by trees to the left and a drainage ditch to the right. We drop two kids off at their aunt’s house and are looking to head back. I try a three point turnaround, but only make it to point number two. The VW van is a lot longer than my VW Gol, and I’ve backed us into the drainage ditch. The front two tires are about two feet in the air. Some of the kids scream in panic; others in delight. We get the kids out safely, and the neighbors begin to congregate around the van. I don’t even try to explain. There are certain acts of stupidity where you lose your right to excuses. But instead of just standing around and taking cheap shots at the gringo, the locals get right to work. The men start pushing on the back of the van, while the women put rocks under the rear tires to generate traction. Two guys put on their knee-high rubber boots so that they can get down into the mirky water and push more effectively. They refused to let me do the same, concerned that I would get my clothes dirty. Meanwhile, more people are streaming in from the community to help, as some of the older women have got the story in circulation. Six strategies and thirty minutes later, the van surges from the ditch, amidst a shower of rocks, mud and applause. Embraces are exchanged, and I’m invited to visit more often - under different circumstances. The crowd still lingers in my rear view mirror as I consider what it is like to live among people who need each other.
This is what I'm referring to when I cite the organic element of community. Mission, strategies, service and celebration assume a certain livelihood that is, in turn, imparted to others.