There are 9 houses on the cul-de-sac I live on in Alpharetta, Georgia. It’s a small little neighborhood and for the most part friendly. That is until a few months ago.
After a short trip to the grocery store, we pulled into our driveway at the top of the cul-de-sac. Two hundred feet away in the bottom of the cul-de-sac, at the part where the circle opens wide, was a neighborhood party. Several heads looked up from their barbecue grills and beers to see me mouth “Oh snap!” from the driver’s seat. I quickly pulled in and assessed the situation.
“Wow, that is embarrassing. I guess we didn’t get invited to that jamboree.” I said.
“It’s no big deal, just say hi when you go get the mail.” My wife replied.
“The mail? Are you crazy? I’m not going to the mailbox right now. They’ll see me. You need to get the mail.” I said. And so my wife did and I avoided adding awkward syrup to an already large awkward banana spilt sundae.
The more I reflected on that moment, my brother gave me a pipe for Christmas that I don’t smoke but it has increased my reflecting by 29%, the more I realized I liked the idea of community better than the reality.
I don’t blame my neighbors for not inviting us. We’re not great neighbors. We spend a lot of time with lots of folks outside of our neighborhood but rarely just kick it in the cul-de-sac. (Although one time we pushed our baby stroller down there and someone gave me a 40 of High Life, which was a weird thing to push around the neighborhood with a baby.) The biggest issue though, is that I am so unwilling to do the work that all great communities require.
And maybe you’re like me. Maybe you like the concept of being in a community one bajillionty times more than actually building one. Well friend, I’m here to help.
Here are three other ways to avoid being in a community.
1. Talk about community all the time.
This might seem counterintuitive, but I assure you it is true. The people that talk the most tend to be the people who act the least. And trust me, you don’t want to be a man or woman of action when it comes to building a community. The less you do, the better, so start talking. Say things like, “Neighborhood groups, life groups, teams of friends, these are the fabrics weaving the threads of our town into a tightly knit community of people bringing change into a resistant world.” To spice it up, add the words, “Postmodern, transparency and missional.” Quote my entire post on communities if you have to, and then don’t do anything. At all.
2. Never volunteer.
If you have a pickup truck, get rid of it right now. Seriously, ghost ride it off a cliff if you have to, but dump that volunteer mobile while you can. Everyone knows that when it comes to helping someone move, nothing beats a friend with a pickup truck. You don’t want to be that friend. And communities are built by people putting others first, so don’t take anyone to the airport either. Don’t babysit, don’t stack chairs after church, don’t offer your pool for a Sunday School cookout. If you have to, fill it in with concrete and knives.
3. Get a yard guy.
Avoiding the mailbox is amateur hour. Everyone knows that setting your alarm clock for 2AM so that you can get up and get your mail under the cloak of night is a great way to avoid unplanned interaction with neighbors. But mowing your yard or weeding flower beds leaves you pretty exposed too. Avoid those situations by hiring a yard guy. It’s worth the small investment. (I saw this pay off recently when the guy across the street from me, literally next door, said his dog died. I told him I was sorry to hear that. He said it had happened a year ago. I had no idea. A year!)
Those are my three favorite techniques but there are others. I would tell you, but then you might feel close to me, like maybe you and I are starting up a community of people who are bad at community and then as ironic as it’d be, I’d be in a community. I can’t help that. So by all means, good luck with your move, let’s have relevant postmodern fellowship soon and feel free to reach out to my yard guy. Tell him I slipped his check under the front door. Couldn’t risk opening it and talking to him either.
Am I the only one that stinks at community?
Is that a word you hear much?