There is a solution to our problem of consuming and our problem of disposing: Community.
What if instead of five families owning, storing and using children’s toys, they shared these toys and passed them around as each family was in need? What if instead of four neighbors all owning their own lawn mowers they shared one? What if instead of three families owning a waffle maker, they passed it around depending on who would be enjoying a Saturday morning filled with waffle making? What if an entire church shared specialty cooking tools: Bundt cake pan, angel food cake pan, cake frosting tools, miniature muffin tins, steamer, rice maker, ice cream maker. What if an extended family all shared camping gear: lanterns, flashlights, sleeping pads, stoves.
I can hear the uproar:
• Sharing children’s toys? That’s ridiculous. They don’t take care of their toys very well. My child really loved this specific toy and I want to have it for my next child at the exact moment she needs it. I may forget about it and my child will never have the opportunity to play with such a stimulating toy.
• One lawnmower? No way. Who will pay for the gas? What if I always end up paying for the gas? What if he drives the mower too rough? His lawn is bigger than mine so he will use it more. I want it stored at my house so I can use it when it is convenient for me.
• I could never share a waffle maker. When I wake up in the morning, and I feel like waffles, I don’t want to have to call my friend to see if I can come over and get it. The moment will be lost and I will never eat waffles again.
• Specialty cooking tools shared between an entire church? If that many people are using the tools, they will wear much faster. They will get ruined. Someone is bound to misplace an item. Someone is bound to be too rough while using the tool or they will clean the item improperly. The convenience will disappear and I will no longer enjoy cooking. It will complicate my life.
• Camping gear: I have a certain brand I like to buy. Who will replace the batteries? Who will buy the propane canisters? What if we all want to go camping together?
I can hear the fear. We all live in fear of our life being a little less convenient. We live in fear of our things being lost or ruined. We live in fear of a lack of fairness.
But imagine all the toys that sit for days, months and years without ever being used. Imagine all the days of the week that a lawn mower sits in the garage waiting for Saturday. Imagine the dust that collects on the waffle maker as it waits for the Saturday morning craving for strawberries and whip cream. Imagine the cooking tools that get pushed to the back of the cupboard or drawer waiting years to be pulled out and used. Imagine the camping gear that spends most of the time in a box in the garage only to be pulled out twice a summer.
We are trained to be consumers, so we really believe that we need to protect our things and that life should be convenient and that we should each own our own everything. So it breaks, who cares? As a community you can buy a new one. So you have to make a call and drive 10 minutes to pick up a waffle maker and you end up eating waffles a half hour later than planned? Thirty minutes, in the long run, does that really matter? So, he is too rough with the lawn mower, teach him how to use it properly. So you have replaced the battery in the flashlight the last two times, eventually someone else will replace it.
Community is not convenient. Community is not fair. There is nothing about it that is easy or effortless. As described in the classic story The Berentstain Bears and the Trouble With Friends, Sister Bear had been playing with her friend Lizzy Bruin, and they began arguing over who should get which toy. She runs home, fed up, “I’m never going to play with that Lizzy Bruin again! It’s much better playing by yourself! When you play by yourself you can do what you want when you want without having to worry about that Lizzy Bruin.” Mama Bear wisely responds that there are many things that a bear cub can’t do alone, but there is one thing she can do alone, “Be lonesome.”
Most of the time in life, it is much easier to just play by yourself. You have complete control over everything. Life is convenient. Your things last longer.
Community is not convenient. But community, in the end will be the thing that stuffs our souls. Community will prevent us from becoming the Hollow Men.
As seen at the Battle of Kruger, a pack is much more powerful than a single-family unit. Had the baby buffalo only had its mother and father, it would not have survived. What if the other buffalo had said, “Oh no, I couldn’t help, I am putting my life in danger.” Or “Oh, what if my baby gets hurt in the process?” The baby buffalo would have died.
A community is committed to one another. A community sacrifices for one another. A community commits not only when it benefits them, but also when it doesn’t benefit them at all. A community will solve the problem of hollow souls. A community will solve the problem of consumerism and disposal. A community will many times make life more difficult but in the end, baby buffaloes will be saved and Sister Bears will be less lonesome.