Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sunshine of Community

"Why is it so much easier to clean someone else's house than your own?" My friend, Susan, asked me this when I ran into her in the store after picking up Ellis from track practice. I had just told her that my friend, Barb, had come to help me clean the house. Birdland will have guests this weekend from far-flung places. While I’m very excited to see my friends, I also appreciate the added bonus of being forced to put the house into some kind of order. In fact, having Barb come over got me to organize a list and prioritize tasks—something I most likely wouldn’t have done if I were trying to clean house all by myself. Working together is always more fun than working alone, and since I feel a responsibility to appreciate the other person’s gift of time and presence, I am more likely to finish a task, less likely to simply move piles around or use creative drapery to hide them. (Of course, there is a place for creative draping, but it is only a short term fix. I eventually have to pay the bills in that pile, so I’d better not lose sight of them.)

I decided to begin with the entrance to the house, and after spiffing up the stairs and boot rack, I moved on to the kitchen. (Birdland parties usually center around the kitchen.) By the time Barb had arrived I had helpfully pulled every stitch of anything out of the pantry closet and spread it around the kitchen floor. This wasn’t exactly on my list, but it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. Now, on my own, I would have likely become distracted by hunting for chocolate in that pantry, but Barb’s arrival got me to focus, and we reorganized the recycling and put the closet back together. We then turned to the list, which began with a vision walk (I led her through the house and we envisioned how it would look when the guests arrived.) The list also included breaks for tea, visiting, and lunch. At the end of a couple of hours, I could almost imagine welcoming friends into my home.

I think the answer to Susan’s question, is that the work isn’t necessarily easier, but it’s much more fun. Sometimes we need to work in solitude, but sometimes camaraderie can energize and focus us, so that we forget we are working, and suddenly the task is finished.

Birdland is mostly overcast as I wait for my guests, and the pending visit makes it hard to concentrate on the work I’m supposed to be doing. I find I’m afflicted with writer’s block even as my deadline for this letter looms. When that happens, I find it best to step away from the computer. In town, I run into my friend, Nancy. When I tell her about my blocked letter, she gets a serious look on her face.

“Well,” she says, “here are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about. It’s winter, so the chickens aren’t laying any eggs, and it’s grey, so we have to make our own sunshine.” She’s right, of course. At the moment, my chicken coop is sadly barren—not so much for the winter, (hens will lay in winter with artificial lights) but because I have only one, lonely rooster in the coop. This year has been extra hard on my flock, and I’m looking forward to starting again in the spring with day old chicks. She’s right again about the sunshine. I think about the ways sunshine has come into my life in the past few weeks. Rescues from friends and strangers (recurring trouble with a dead battery in my car), emails and letters from “friends I didn’t know I had” (as Millie Otto says in her column My Amish Home), an impromptu girls’ night with Becky and Kelly. We shared food and drink, troubles and laughter, and it felt quite a bit sunnier at the end of their visit.

Each of these rays of sunshine has one thing in common: Community. It reminds me of Marlo Thomas’ rap, “Housework” as sung by Carol Channing: “If you want all the days of your lives/To seem sunny as summer weather,/Make sure, when there's housework to do,/That you do it together!"

Share in Beauty; Nurture Peace; Blessed Be.

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