When I was really little I lived on a street called Oval Drive, it was an oval shaped road with small houses built co-operatively by a group of veterans (my grandfather among them) who had received a special land grant. The Oval was a special place to live, the adults knew each other well, I remember them walking through each others’ back yards on summer evenings, drinks in hand (most non-alcoholic because they couldn’t afford booze). They would play cards and talk on porches and decks and we kids would run around our ¾ acre yards, swim in pools, climbs trees, try to grow carrots, chase each other around, ride bikes two sizes to big, and all the other sort of Norman Rockwell type stuff. It really was that nice.
The place I live in today reminds me a lot of that place. We have a bit more money and can afford wine, our houses are bigger and our cars are slightly, oh so slightly, better than the ones on the Oval. We recently celebrated the 3rd birthday of a boy at the end of the block (we live on a dead-end street). A bunch of kids were there, and many neighbours (including some who never had kids and others whose kids are long gone) came out with gifts, nachos, vegetables, and benches. We sat around and talked, got to know each other better, and learned about gardening here in Duncan. We laughed as the sun shone down on us in February, and the kids, well the kids were chasing each other, writing with chalk on the sidewalk, riding bikes, and eating loads of grapes and sucking back the juice boxes. It seemed, for ann hour or two, that all was well with the world.
Both of these places are examples of relational community where various ages come together and learn from each, enjoy each other, and make the place we live feel rooted, feel right. I believe God was right when he noted that Adam shouldn’t be alone, I also believe he was right that when a man and a woman come together it ought to lead to the bearing of children more often than not because we are meant to live in community (no I’m not suggesting we all have 10 kids, any number will do). I believe this even though I know many people are scared that kids will ruin their lives and their finances, that many fear connecting with their neighbours, they see it as risky, perhaps they fear rejection, or worry their neighbour will prove “needy”. In truth, we are all needy.
You see, I know many of the kids on my block, I can watch out for them, help keep them safe, relieve their parents from time to time, comfort both children and parents, commiserate when the going gets tough, and laugh when a kid climbs too high in the tree and gets stuck. I can only do these things; I can only be of service to others and find meaning in that service, if there are, in fact, other people. We are not made to live in a landscape of cars and fences; we are made to live with other people around with all their smells, their failings, and the troubles they might cause us. We are meant to share things like responsibilities for raising kids children and lawnmowers.
If you ask my wife she will tell you I have a hokey leave-it-to-Beaver sort of memory of my early childhood, one that seems impossible to believe and next to impossible to re-create. But if you ask me, we were then, as we are now, simply living as God intended us to live, knowing each others’ names and faces, just as God knows each of us (o.k. we don’t each other that well, but you get the point).