Taking Turns



I have fond memories of my childhood home. I remember the quirks of our kitchen cabinets, the creaky places in the hallway floor, and the way the light came in my bedroom window and moved across the floor with the setting sun. It was my home, and they are my memories. It occurred to me recently that those same quirks, creaks, and rays of light have also been the enjoyed by a number of other people I will never know. Other little boys were raised my room as that house changed hands, and other children grew up in my home, playing the same games in my yard. Maybe it was never my home at all, I just had a lovely turn using it. 

I am writing this article while sitting at a christian retreat centre in Riondel, BC. The Harbour at Riondel, as it is now called, is a renovated camp now used to host all kinds of gatherings. I’m here teaching students and learning a lot as I do. But as I walk along the mossy paths and pebble stone beaches, I realize I’m taking my turn here, too. Before it was the Harbour at Riondel, it was a Presbyterian camp, before that it was a region with orchards and industries now long gone. Through the years the beach would also reveal arrow heads left behind by the indigenous Ktunaxa people who, for 10,000 years, stopped over on these beaches to fish and hunt. I was walking one of the trails that passed below a massive eagle’s nest. For generations this point has been home to eagles, and my daughter found, laying on the ground, an eagle feather. Before there was time, it seems that life flourished before I was ever here. I am just taking my turn.

In the beauty of these places the one thing that seems somehow foreign are the ‘for sale’ signs in front of empty land. Buying and selling land is one way of figuring out who is taking their turn to use this or that particular place. But to see it as a kind of possession in any way beyond that marks the hubris we can have when we possess something. No one really every owns any place at all, we are simply taking our turn. 100% of the time, every piece of land will one day belong to someone else. 

Our city is also not ours to own or possess as much as it is ours to tend, steward, and recognize that we are given a gift to enjoy this place for this time. Our homes and streets where we live our lives in this moment will be for hundreds and thousands of others a place where memories are made and hopes play out. A mountain or forest will never know who owns it, but how it looks after an owner is done with it will reveal much more about the owner. We are stewards of our city for this short time. We have been given a tremendous responsibility and joy in carrying this place. How will it look when we are done with it?

We might own something, but we can discover the joy of using what we own for the sake of others. Instead of owning my house and putting up a taller fence, I am learning to open my door and set out a longer table. If I see my possessions as just ‘taking a turn’ then I can more easily share what I have with others. Owning something can lead to a generous life, because after all is done, everything we own will belong to another. Sharing it now can change how we thrive, and make even what we own better because of it. We’re taking our turn with this place, let’s make it a good one.

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About the author

Preston Pouteaux

Preston Pouteaux

Preston is a pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere and experiments mostly in the intersection of faith and neighbourhood. Into the Neighbourhood explores how we all contribute to creating a healthy and vibrant community. Preston is also a beekeeper; a reminder that small things make a big difference.

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