I do not remember the days when recipes were traded face-to-face, scribed by hand. Or the days when five jars of peaches were bartered for a sack of potatoes, when picnic blankets were spread beneath the sun and laid with pies and other goodies to feed the men after the barn raising, when young men and women gathered to dance away the evening in a barn-loft (and I mean real dancing, the kind that fosters respect).
I should remember those days—because we should still be living them.
But we are not. In an age when we are able to connect more than ever before—be it by phone, text, email, or Skype—we have lost our ability to truly connect. Anything done with the heart takes intent and sacrifice and effort, therefore we no longer truly connect because it is too easy to reach out to each other. Our communication has lost its quality. And thus community has dissolved, because community is formed through communication. We need community more than we think, my friends. I need it more than I once thought.
We have become islands. Perhaps I can live a sustainable life on my island, but it is the loneliest place, where one becomes entangled in one’s own self and knows nothing outside this web. I have lived this. I still struggle with this at times—but the struggle is good; it means I am seeking to reach out with the heart. Yes, it requires intent to arrange a coffee date with a friend; yes, it requires sacrifice to drive over on your day off and bake cookies with the neighbor’s kids while she recovers from an illness; yes, it requires effort to host a barbecue for a large family. But in turn, we find ourselves journeying alongside people who share the same joys and pains that we ourselves know, the same virtues and flaws. And sometimes we encounter joys and pains we have never known, virtues we desire, and flaws demanding our mercy. In this, the Body of Christ is revealed to us—every wound and every ray of light extending from those wounds. In this, we grow.
It’s not about the recipes, the homegrown food, the building of barns, or the good old-fashioned dancing. It’s about meeting Christ in those whom He has made in His image. And in an age when imagery is often assaulting us from every angle, we desperately need to seek out the image that is most good, true, and beautiful. Discover this image in the old woman come to sit beside you on the bench, in the child lifting his woodcraft to your eyes, in the grizzly man with an ancient story to tell. Listen to their stories and grow. Tell your stories and watch those around you grow. And perhaps one day we will find ourselves living no longer on islands but on the island of the world, watching together the horizon to see the ship that will carry us Home.