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22 February 2021
Sharing life authentically in a caring community
Words Bryce Davies
My wife – the lovely Sue – and I, live in a block of four ground-floor villas with a shared driveway and shared carports. It’s a terrific little community and we call it ‘The Village’.
Our neighbours all look out for each other. On bin night, our bins always arrive back at our doorstep, as someone has just brought them in for us. If our bins are overflowing, as sometimes happens when I forget to put them out, we can always load up our neighbours’ bins and they are fine with that. When we have a big garden clean-up, we all share the green waste bins. Bins and rubbish are a big part of community life.
There are a few older ladies in the mix who have dodgy hips or knees, so me and Trev, the other guy in the complex, do the lawns, trim the hedges, and weed the gardens. If there is anything heavy to be lifted or a little maintenance job to be done, the ladies give us a call and we come over and fix it. Not long after these calls, my favourite chocolate bar often mysteriously appears at our front door.
When we run out of sugar or need some soy sauce for a recipe, we just pop next door and get what we need. During lockdowns, we shared the shopping and met for a socially distanced coffee catch-up each week in our driveways.
Each year, we get together for The Village Christmas party, and it’s great fun. We wear silly hats, have a ‘Secret Santa’ and eat a delicious meal together. When something difficult happens to any of us, we call and catch up. We often stop and chat in the driveway, and really do care about and look after each other. It’s old-fashioned neighbourly goodness, and I love it.
Recently, one of our neighbours had a son come home from hospital and she had the extended family over. Maybe 10 people. It was emotional and she was feeling the pressure. She asked me to go to the Chinese restaurant up the road and pick up a meal. Of course, this was no problem at all and I’m sure it just made the night a little bit easier for my friend. It felt good to be able to do something practical to show my care. I’m glad she felt comfortable enough to ask.
There is a beautiful atmosphere of love and support in our little village, and I think it makes everyone feel a bit safer and free to be themselves and to share life authentically.
I was recently chatting to my mate Andrew, who lives in London, and he has been in the same street now for 17 years. He has seen it change from a quite isolated and disconnected community to one that is now really engaged and supportive.
Andrew is a friendly and enthusiastic sort of guy, and I am sure he has wholeheartedly been involved in every effort to build this community over the years with things like barbecues and, during lockdowns, little street sing-a-longs. People now wave, and stop and chat, and they know each other’s names. Every Christmas now, they close off the street for a big party, and I know he is out there in the cold, putting up lights and making sure all the locals get into the spirit of things. I am sure everyone in that street is glad Andrew and his family moved into the neighbourhood.
When describing the coming of Jesus into the world, one version of the Bible says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John chapter 1, verse 14 The Message Bible translation).
I love this image. The God of all love, grace and truth comes close, assimilates into our lives like a friendly supportive neighbour and floods our souls with love, hope and joy. I know for me, because I am open to it, I live with an authentic connection with the spirit of Jesus and am often aware of being loved and hopeful. Sometimes I just smile for no reason at all. It’s a mysterious thing and hard to describe really. It’s a bit like knowing that a spiritual Andrew lives next door and is ready, willing and available to listen, encourage and help out whenever I need him – 24/7.
Major Bryce Davies is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Queensland.