“God comes to us in the midst of human need, and the most pressing needs of our time demand community in response. How can I participate in a fairer distribution of resources unless I live in a community, which makes it possible to consume less? How can I learn accountability unless I live in a community where my acts and their consequences are visible to all? How can I learn to share power unless I live in a community where hierarchy is unnatural? How can I take the risks which right action demands, unless I belong to a community which gives support? How can I learn the sanctity of each life unless I live in a community where we can be persons not roles to one another?
(Parker Palmer, 1977; as quoted in Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through The Quaker Tradition)
I was in Lansing last spring waiting for a workshop on structural inequality to begin. Several people were running late and so those of us that were there sat in the circle waiting. I turned to the lady next to me and said ‘hi’ and we began chatting. I had just had a conversation on facebook with another friend that is working in Kenya. That morning she had invited me to come and join her in her work. I was very pleased and excited about that and it had been on my mind for the last couple of hours. As I continued talking with the lady in the circle next to me, I was pleasantly and curiously surprised that she was from Kenya and had been living here for 10 years. I am very intrigued with different cultures and especially about how “community” looks in different countries. So I asked her what she sees as the differences in cultures between America and Kenya. She said, “Oh”… and then sat there shaking her head, trying to find the words to answer that question. Finally, she turned to me and said in her strong and beautiful Kenyan accent something that sounded to me like, “da wawd aye”. I was on the edge of my seat by that time, listening with all my heart. With a puzzled look, I asked her to repeat it. As I listened more intently, I heard it. “The word ‘I’”. THAT is the difference. In America, everything is about “I”, “me”, and “mine”. In Kenya, nothing is about that, it is about “we”, “us”, and “ours”. Suddenly, she went silent again, running out of words to continue to express this way of life. Then she looked at me and said, “You HAVE to visit. That is the only way you will understand… Well, you don’t HAVE to, but if you don’t, you’ll miss it!”
I have long been intrigue by community and frustrated with the lack of community that exists in my life and work...