Last night our family enjoyed one of our favorite meals - spaghetti! Our daughter picked out which kind of pasta we would use (mini penne), and our five-year-old son ate a mound of pasta bigger than his head!
One of the highlights of the meal were fresh baked rolls, given to us by our next door neighbors. They were delicious! And as I reflect on our neighbor's generosity (not to mention the fact that they have daughters who are interested in babysitting for us - woohoo!), I am reminded of a story from the start> Becoming a Good Samaritan Participant's Guide. The story of Mary Margaret Bartley:
Ten years ago Mary Margaret Bartley and her husband, Stewart, intentionally relocated to the neighborhood of Austin in Chicago, Illinois. Soon after their arrival, they realized that they were surrounded by neighbors who wanted, like them, to honor both God and other people by being better stewards of the world in which they lived.
Before long, the Bartleys and their neighbors had made an informal arrangement to be generous with the everyday resources of life. "It wasn't so much the practical part that compelled us," she explains, "but the overall idea that everything belongs to God, and we are simply called to steward well the things we find in our midst. So far we have a shared vacuum, a shared table saw, a shared weed-whacker, a shared ladder, a shared lawn mower, and on and on it goes." When asked who foots the bill when the lawn mower has an attitude, she didn't miss a beat. "We pool our money and have it fixed."
The family across the street has two children and one car. They take public transportation as much as possible, but when schedules are especially demanding, neighbors loan them a car. "There are literally dozens of cars that sit unused all day long in this neighborhood. My husband and I both work from home, for example, so there are plenty of times when we don't need ours. We're glad to have friends who can use our resources when we aren't using them, and we treasure that type of cooperation in return."
Mary Margaret acknowledges that an urban setting makes an easier backdrop against which to live out this "shared" lifestyle. But she's quick to remind suburbanites that there are small steps they can take. "Sometimes progress is as simple as walking down the street," she says. "If you have a front porch, sit on it! Host a block party at a local park or in your own backyard - do whatever you need to do to share a meal and a conversation with the people who live nearby. Create room for relationships to be formed, and then just watch what God will do."
"We want to live with open hands," she says, "being good stewards of the resources and the relationships that God has entrusted to us." What a gift to their community - and their God - that decision must be. (Based on author interview with Mary Margaret Bartley, 2009. Used with permission.)
As you reflect upon this story, consider the following question:
1. What is one way that you can encourage your neighborhood to model her approach?