Two weeks ago I blogged about how we should be prepared for more bad economic news. My bottom line that day was that we should be more self reliant. I called for us to be responsible, ready and re-energized. I said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” (Click here to see the article.)
One of my friends, Clayton Steiner, reminded me, “I thought in this economic time, it’s time to talk about community, sharing, watching out for each other, helping our neighbor, simple living … and good old fashioned Mennonite theology.”
So, what’s Clayton’s hang up with “Mennonite theology?” What you may not know about me is that I am a Mennonite. Clayton is a long-time friend from my church. He is one of those special friends who is always willing to look you in the eye and ask the tough questions. He has mentored me, helped me develop my own faith and walked alongside me through some of the biggest tragedies of my life, such as losing my mother unexpectedly 10 years and one month ago today.
As a Mennonite, I’ve often heard that folks admire the Amish and Mennonites because we appear to be so self-reliant. And, it’s true that being self reliant is important to us. There are few things that can make you feel more accomplished than a root cellar full of canned food! But, Clayton was right, being self-reliant is not our top priority.
Mennonites believe that loving, and demonstrating that love in tangible ways, is one of our highest callings. If we’re doing it right (and, like anyone, we often fail) this should come out looking like what Clayton told me was missing in my first Be Prepared blog posting. He wanted me to call for a close-knit, “all for one and one for all” community. (To learn more about Mennonites, visit The Third Way Cafe.)
Now, I know that the Mennonite view of “community” isn’t held by most folks. And, that’s OK. Each of us has to come to our own view of the world.
But, none of us (Mennonite, Amish, or otherwise) can lose sight of the fact that each of us belongs to a community. A community is nothing more than a loose-knit group of people working to achieve a common goal. So, your workplace could be your community. Your apartment building or your town or your place of worship could be your community.
Even the friends you run around with or your extended family are a community. But, the sense of community is most meaningful when it crosses the normal boundaries of relationships. Having real community means reaching beyond family and friends and connecting to people simply because they live or work near you.
When the going gets tough, we certainly have the option of turning our backs on our community and only “looking out for number one.” It’s undeniably true that the most powerful impulse toward self-preservation is to put own needs ahead of others. But, we can never lose sight of the fact that the success of the community will ultimately dictate our own success. When we treat the folks around us with fairness, respect, warmth and compassion, it makes the world a better place.
There’s no shortage of opinions on what the future will hold. But, for better or worse, surviving whatever comes requires more than just being ready on an individual basis. It requires us to pull together in a communal sense and look out for each other.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, if you’re one of the toughs that is leading the way, thank-you! Just don’t forget to reach out to someone that needs a hand. Our community is depending on you.