By Katey Rudd
I’m finally sitting down to return overdue emails, write a nearly overdue article, and slog through a grant outline. Maybe I’ll have time to get part of one of these tasks done in the hour I don’t have anything planned today and can simultaneously inhale a sandwich. I thought I’d be able to do some of this before our 9:00am team meeting but chicken care and watering seedlings for our garden took longer than I thought this morning, so I’m starting now.
(Hear door open.) A neighbor is here and has a question, needs space held, wants to feel connected.
This takes 30ish minutes.
Success!: We had a fantastic talk. Our neighbor left being more a part of what we are collaboratively creating here at Haw Creek Commons. I am more connected to them.
NOT success: My emails, article, grant outline.
This may happen 5 more times today if I stay present in this space.
I am committed to being present.
But now I’m pressured. Now I haven’t eaten, feel doubly behind, have a meeting in 15 minutes, and am hoping to have a semblance of a personal life tonight without dropping too many balls. How do I feel? Stressed. Anxious. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. I start to punitively calculate the “lost” minutes in my head with a grrrr in the back of my throat even though I know the time I just spent in relationship is the whole point of what we are doing. I wonder how I can get it all done.
I think we’ve all been here no matter how much we care about people. We need to be calm, competent, spiritual, hold space, facilitate community without injecting anxiety, restlessness or being short with people.
I don’t want to pretend to be this. I want to BE this. It has to be real. If it’s not real than our message is just another game and I don’t want to be a salesman. If we can’t genuinely be in community with grace our community will reflect that. As leaders, we set the tone, hopefully a spacious tone. We cannot have narrative that has no backbone.
All of us, staff and friends at Missional Wisdom Foundation, are strange enough to place ourselves in this position every day, all day, because we have this wild vision that community itself is a means of grace. This sounds fantastic as an outward theology, that creating community opens an avenue for people to experience God, each other, and the world, no evangelical agenda required or desired.
The real kicker is this theology absolutely demands dedication to an inward practice of patience, grace, listening, and humility before community even hits the scene.
Our collective goal is to create a container for community to create itself. Easier said than done. There are myriad variables. This theology only has power if it effectively bears an ecology. (Ecology: The set of relationships existing between any complex system and its surroundings or environment.) Our theology in our contextualized ecology must be translated to momentary practice that has no end point for community to become our culture. We make space for the unexpected. We make space for the interruption. We don’t TRY, we ARE present.
Grace doesn’t come easily or permanently between humans. We have to plan for it and practice it. We have to cycle forgiveness and resilience when things hurt us or afront our ideal. We have to communicate. Grace happens when we get out of books and heady conversation then hit the dirty pavement of daily community. It gets practical quickly. It gets personal even quicker because it’s about our schedule.
No matter how you slice it, our schedules and particularities are about us.
It’s natural. It’s where we are in control and create our own comfort.
What if we rearrange our schedule to be a commons schedule?
A few practices that have been helpful to me:
Create a multi-day schedule for 3 days minimum
Star the 4-7 most important tasks to be accomplished the day you write the list and do those that day, interruptions aside. (If you have large projects, break them into manageable task-sized steps to be included in this list.)
Plan for 2-3 hours (or more) of “interruption” per day. Consider those hours your greatest work.
Take care of yourself, every day, however that looks. Practice Sabbath. As Wendell Berry says, “Practice Resurrection.” (Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, poem)
How do we spend our time?
What are we creating in that time?
WHY do we spend our time that way and to what end?
What does it look like to have a community-centered approach to our daily life while still maintaining people-centered, self-sustaining businesses and projects that demand definitive outcomes (all while staying sane and healthy?)
MOST IMPORTANTLY: What do we consider “interruption?” Is our definition accurate? How does expanding or contracting our perspective affect our capacity to be present in our communities and lead a culture of grace?