Deepening Community: Sharing Our Stories

Submitted by Paul Born on May 22, 2014 - 6:05am
An excerpt from Paul's book "Deepening Community"

Rita’s Story: How We Live Matters

Rita lives a half-hour from the nearest city and works on her family farm. Her life is based on the rhythms of daily farm life. She has used this life as a natural template for community sharing. Rita works seven days a week milking, tending a garden, keeping house, and raising a family. Walking to the neighbors’ farms is a hike, and getting to the city is a commute, but times with friends and family and weekday church gatherings happen often, though seldom until after eight o’clock, when the evening milking is done.

A central influence in Rita’s life is her church community. Both Rita and her husband have taken on leadership roles in the church, and their children are active in the youth group. The church is not just a place to meet internal needs; while it is a place that builds belonging based on the sharing of its members’ stories, it is also a conduit for engaging and helping others.

Rita’s son recently had a heart attack. The stent that had been placed in an artery near his heart had not been working properly, and one day when he was out running at school, his heart suddenly stopped. Fortunately, his teacher knew CPR, a doctor’s office was across the street from the school, and a local nurse, who had just finished a presentation to a class, was coming out of the school just in time to help. That’s not all: the local ambulance happened to be driving by at just the right time, and the volunteer fire department had its defibrillator. Her son’s life was saved.

But the real miracle took place during the month of his hospitalization, surgery, and recovery in a city nearly two hours away. The phone never stopped ringing at home, meals were dropped off, endless boxes of chocolates and other gifts were sent to the hospital, and some friends and family members made the long drive daily with Rita’s husband and daughter to visit at the hospital after their chores were done. People even took time off work to help the family with their spring planting since Rita was staying with her recovering son.

The connection between giving and receiving is central in Rita’s life. It is not a matter of indebtedness, and not even of gratitude (though there is plenty of that); it’s more just, well, this is what you do.

Though Rita lives in a small rural community, she seems deeply connected to the world. In many ways her life on the farm and at church has preserved the best of the way community used to be. Though it may sound unreal to some—too warm and ideal—the story is real, as are the people who make up her remarkable community. This community has shaped and continues to shape them. It works its way into everything.

Rita’s wisdom for deepening community:

  • Where you live can increase your possibilities for community.
  • Community is a lifestyle—a way of being.
  •  It is important to commit to a group of people.
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • Get involved and help others; this will connect you to them.
  •  The more you give, the more you receive.


Great ROI

Such a heartwarming story of community at its best. 

A finance-minded person might see this story as a great ROI on an investment in community. How do we feel about this analogy?  Do you prefer others?