One of the things that I really enjoy about living in Fieldstone Farms is the genuine sense of community that has always been so evident. Arriving here from Chicago on the evening of February 2nd, 2007, it wasn’t twenty-four hours before my family and I were introduced, not only to our neighbors, but also to the warm, inviting Southern Hospitality that, until then we’d only heard about. New friends brought over cookies & the like, names and phone numbers were exchanged, and we discovered the pleasant way that those south of the Mason-Dixon line define “visiting.”
Just prior to our official relocation, I had the opportunity to spend a few days here in Franklin, settling on a job and securing our new home. With a couple of hours to spare before my flight back to the Windy City, I’d decided to take advantage of a little down-time by walking the streets of downtown Franklin. My Caffe Verona was still tepid when I found myself in a conversation with a gentleman who was from out of town himself. He asked if I was from around here, and I let him know how, in a manner of speaking, I was almost from around here. He was looking for a drugstore, and so we made our way toward Gary’s, but as it had already been closed down, we just kept on walking and talking. Nearly 20 minutes went by as two total strangers shot the breeze like old friends. Now, I’m fond of saying (only a little bit tongue-in-cheek) that where I’m from, after walking side-by-side with a total stranger for 20 minutes, you’re likely to want to make sure your wallet is still in your pocket! But here, that kind of encounter can be pretty typical, and it was an experience that I’ll likely remember for a long time. It was also a reminder that, for the most part, human interaction is best experienced in-person, rather than through a text or an e-mail.
It’s been said that the key to life can be found in relationships. Having passed the midway point of my three-score-and-ten, I find that I’m seeing more and more, the truth in that statement. The more I contemplate the relationships in my life; my wife, daughter and our families, our church family, our friends, the more I come to understand that cultivating deep, lasting relationships is a good and necessary thing, even a “God-thing.”
Actually, looking back to when God created the world, He created it good. All through creation week, He would create-each passing day receiving His approval. In time, after declaring so many things to be “good,” the Lord eventually got to pointing out something that wasn’t so good. Significantly, the first time that God let on that something wan’t good was when He pointed out that man was alone. God created man to enjoy relationships – and no wonder; even God Himself, though Singular in Being, enjoys fellowship within His own Triune nature. We were made in His image, and I wonder if one way that that truth bears itself out is in our natural desire to seek out relationships.
Many years later, as outcasts in the first century, the early church came to lean heavily upon their community as they needed to “be there” for one another. They spent time in the Word and prayer together, and they encouraged and met each other’s needs as they arose – knit together, they were the body of Christ!
In contrast to previous generations, I recall hearing a statistic that the typical Facebooker today spends an average of 169 minutes in that online community – per visit. It amazes me how we can spend so much time together…without actually being together!
Don’t get me wrong – I believe that online communities have found a genuinely valuable place in our time in history – I’m actually a relatively frequent twitter-er myself (@/brianbachochin) – and clearly these avenues of connection can help to bridge the various sorts of distances between us. But when it comes to relationships, and truly “doing” community, God help us not to lose the truth in the old adage: “I guess you just had to be there.”
This article appeared in the May issue of Magnolia Magazine.