This column, Into the Neighbourhood, has always been about loving our neighbours and creating the best for our neighbourhoods. When we explore these themes and live them out, we begin to discover that there is so much more going on around us, and in us. When we search for meaning, reach out to others, and let others into our lives it creates something we may not have expected: depth.
Depth is the opposite of shallowness; those short-lived and quickly-forgotten pursuits that promise so much and deliver so little. Depth of character, of relationship, of faith, and of purpose does not come in a container, nor is it bought in a transaction. Rather it is nurtured intentionally between people and in our lives over time. The place where we live and the people around us become the setting in which our lives grow deeply, and richly.
We need others to grow. Monks and hermit-mystics throughout history thought that their spiritual depth came from their reclusiveness. Yet their best discoveries and writings came from when they spent time with other monks, or when they had a conflict with another hermit or met with guests. Spiritual formation and depth may begin in quiet moments of reading, prayer, and reflection, but they mature in the company of others.
Going deep in our communities is about playing the long game. A quick wave to a neighbour is not the end of a greeting, but the beginning. Sharing coffee, throwing a party, walking a dog, or opening a bottle of wine with others is part of an unfolding story. How you feel about your neighbourhood depends largely on whether you are engaging with your community over time. When I meet people who love their neighbours and enjoy their neighbourhoods, they are often those who have been nurturing friendships and connections for years. They began long ago and today they express a deep and abiding delight in where they live and truly love and know those around them.
Often depth of character and love for others is not celebrated as much as it should be. Parts of our culture value the vapid and quick, the shallow and the impersonal. Yet there is a growing movement of people who are returning to the deeper life, the local life, and the meaningful life again. We are rediscovering faith, rooted stories, and the joy of community. Depth is not a airy ideal of the unstable, but a rediscovery of something we were made for. We were designed for depth. We have the capacity to think, act, and love others in ways that would surprise us if we paused to reflect on it. When we listen to others, live generously with our time and resources, and practice the art of loving our neighbours, we begin to live into how we were made.
May this be a year of depth for you as you engage your community and reach out to those around you. And as you do, may you discover something surprising, unexpected, delightful, deeper and better.