There are so many days when staying at home is a joy. And there some days when I just feel alone and isolated. I say this not to complain about staying at home with my children, which I love, but to acknowledge and share something that I feel is missing in our society.
Awhile back, my husband and I started a documentary called “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart” about the American banjo. I never finished it, so I can’t tell you what I think of the whole thing. But there was one scene that has stuck with me, and brings a longing to my heart every time I see it. When I saw it the first time, I was in such a lonely place I was trying not to cry. (Yes, leave it to me to find something to cry about in a documentary about banjos!)
In this scene, women in the Village of Nakisenyi in Africa are gathered outside around some pans laid on the dirt. Some are crouched over the pans, washing dishes. Others are standing or sitting around, singing a lively call and response song. Nearby, the children are around, playing together. What strikes me is that the women are not holed up in their homes, doing their own dishes after eating by themselves. They are working together. It is a community job. They work together to do a task that we do on our own. They are sharing each other’s daily burdens. And what better way to get something done than to sing while you do it?
The next scene is in the same village, of a big group of villagers singing and playing instruments. There is a HUGE marimba made out of logs. The marimba must be 10 feet long, resting on the ground. It is so long there must be five men playing it, each with two sticks. Standing around them are more people singing and playing other instruments. Some are clapping if they don’t have another instrument. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. The children are nearby in a group, dancing and clapping.
Something about that struck a chord in my heart. These people do not have fancy houses, the newest gadgets, or in-style clothes. But what they do have is something I crave – a true, ever-present community. We are so busy in our individual family lives, we miss out on the joys of living in a community.
Think about it. We wake up in our own little houses, get in our cars with the windows up, do our business, then drive back to our houses. Our evenings are spent doing things for our individual families – grocery shopping, dance lessons, softball games.
When we finally get together with another family, it usually involves this complicated dance around each family’s schedule – so much that a simple dinner requires families to reserve a date several months in advance. Even play dates can take weeks to plan out. Some days I wish for a simpler life. A life where I know my neighbors and they know me. A life where we don’t have to work so hard to get together.