Our family is seeking to find our place “with and in” a new community.
When we look in the mirror of past experience, we see how the last several years serve both as formation and the push toward what’s next. In many ways, we hope to simply continue the work we have already invested in; a fostering of belonging and rootedness in local community. For the past several years, the idea of “creating common space” has driven the everyday practices of our lives. We have both stumbled and purposefully walked toward creating a neighboring-place called Chipman Commons: a place where businesses, non-profits, and faith-communities join together for the common good. I am very excited to see the next steps for these beautiful people as they continue to work together. It will be good, very good.
But the question we ask daily still remains, “What now?” What good work can we give ourselves to here? We find ourselves in a new location, transitioning from the urban life back to our familial roots of rural life. From a city to a village. From the plains to the mountains. So much is different, from the views to the accents, but we are also finding much is the same.
Although we are daily reminded we can’t assume a place of belonging in our new community, our passion for common good remains the same. We are now outsiders, beginners, non-locals, observers, and exegeters. But we can already see the present beauty and future possibilities. It’s SO obvious that sometimes it makes it difficult to reign in our ambitions, but we are learning to focus on first steps rather than final stories. Everyday we awake and prepare to walk a little further on the path before us.
Occasionally, in our reading, we find words to point us forward. A concrete description matching the intuition of our experience. A reminder of why we continue to seek good work. Today, the words came from Wendell Berry in The Art of the Commonplace (p204). This is the “work” we hope to continue. This is the future we are living toward. And we think, we may have found a place and people who are already living in it.
“The real improvements then must come, to a considerable extent, from the local communities themselves. We need local revision of our methods of land use and production. We need to study and work together to reduce scale, reduce overhead, reduce industrial dependencies; we need to market and process the local products locally; we need to bring local economies into harmony with local ecosystems so that we can live and work with pleasure in the same places indefinitely; we need to substitute ourselves, our neighborhoods, our local resources, for expensive imported goods and services; we need to increase cooperation among all local economic entities; households, farms, factories, banks, consumers, and suppliers. If we are serious about reducing government and the burdens of government, then we need to do so by returning economic self-determination to the people. And we must not do this by inviting destructive industries to provide “jobs” in the community; we must do it by fostering economic democracy. For example, as much as possible of the food that is consumed locally ought to be locally produced on small farms, and then processed in small, no polluting plants that are locally owned. We must do everything possible to provide to ordinary citizens the opportunity to own a small, usable share of the country. In that way, we will put local capital to work locally, not to exploit and destroy the land but to use it well. This is not work just for the privileged, the well-positioned, the wealthy, and the powerful. It is work for everybody.”