Doing good, loving others, sharing your life, and caring deeply is costly work. Sometimes we do not realize how much we’ve expended on others until something or someone comes along and takes the last cookie. We can realize our stores are depleted and we have no more to give.
Caring for, and loving, our neighbourhoods is not for the faint of heart. It can be taxing to care for others when we feel we have little else to give. When our resources and attention are spread thin, we might want to give more, but simply find that we are spent.
As a gardener I’ve learned something about how things grow. Plants do not produce fruit all year long, they are seasonal. Most of the year my garden is under snow and waiting, some of the year it is sitting in the sun, putting out leaves, and preparing to create fruit. Then, only after all of this is done, are we able to see the first blossoms and eventually enjoy its fruit. For a few weeks a year I have and abundance of apples, strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, and cherries. Our neighbour grows tremendous zucchinis and she shares around her extras. I collect honey and put out jars on my porch. Sometimes we are fruitful and have much to share, but most of the time we are growing, waiting, and recharging.
Some parts of our culture celebrates the mechanical promise of constant production. The ‘hustle’ is elevated as we work longer hours to get more. We have everything we want at the mere swipe of a credit card. Yet, something is lost when we live among others but only for ourselves. We think we can live full lives at this pace and with that focus, but we were never made for this.
Neighbourism is a corrective to the mechanical, impersonal, and consumptive impulse of hustle culture. It believes that as we live in healthy rhythms of rest, growth and generosity, we will find that over time we will have greater capacity. Neighbourists are discovering that people are limited and no one has endless energy to give. So we do not live simply to take from each other and we do not demand from our neighbours what they cannot give. Rather we live alert to what is happening around us. We nurture relationships, work diligently, honour stories, enjoy moments of ease, and lean in.
If today you feel spent with the challenges of life, of kids, of aging parents, of work, and hardship; know that it is normal. You are not called to give to everyone always. What your neighbourhood needs is you, as you are, when you are spent and when you are full. You are more valuable than what you give, you are inherently valuable right now.
When we practice the art of knowing and being known by our neighbours, we are already most of the way there. Whether you are having your worst day or your best day, the fact that you are willing to share it all with those around you brings you into a place where caring relationships can flourish. Simply being present in a world of isolation may very well be all your community needs of you today.
The day will come when you will feel full again and you will have more than enough to share. If today is not that day, then rest in the peace of knowing that you have a place here. Your community needs you, as you are.