This morning I attending a symposium about housing in the greater Williamsburg area. The theme of the symposium was the effect of housing on health, both for individuals and the community. One of the ideas that stuck with me was about the consequence of a lack of affordable housing. What the researchers found was that a lack of affordable housing had a negative impact on the entire community – not just those struggling to make ends meet, but also on those in upper-income brackets. When communities do not have affordable housing, service industry workers can eventually opt out of living and working in the community altogether, creating a void of laborers, and an increase in the cost-of-living for all. Whereas many wealthy community members may not be concerned about affordable housing, in fact, a lack of affordable housing hurts the property values and economy for all.
The idea of affordable housing being a problem for everyone reminded me of an idea I have been pondering lately: we need each other. In the United States, we have long-held ideals about individualism, independence, and industriousness. We value an “every man for himself” ethic. But that kind of ethic only gets us so far. Sooner or later, we eventually discover that every man (or woman!) cannot do everything for himself or herself. In fact, we need each other. I suspect that our need for one another is not a surprise when we are really honest. But many of us have a hard time being honest about our mutual need because it means admitting vulnerability, dependency, and incompleteness. Whether we like it or not, we need one another.
This Sunday at Hickory Neck Church, we are finishing a series on discipleship, using Rowan Williams’ book Being Disciples. Williams argues that there are two principles of Christian faith and discipleship that we need to form the basis of a moral society: we are each of equal value to God, and we are all dependent on each other. His second point is what connected with me today. Williams argues, “The community that most perfectly represents what God wants to see in the human world is one where the resources of each person are offered for every other, whether those resources are financial or spiritual or intellectual or administrative.”[i] When we allow each person to be needed, to play a role in each other’s lives, we begin to be able to see that we are not just being kind – we actually need each other.
I invite you to take a look around this week, and try to imagine what each person you meet has to offer the world. From infants to wise elders; from wealthy to homeless; from male to female; from convict to free – imagine what gift each person has for the world, and how you can honor and respect the dignity of each person you meet. Even when someone is rude, unkind, or on the other side of the political aisle, I encourage you to find what you need in each other. God will help you find the answers, and I hope you will share them here!!
[i] Rowan Williams, Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 69.