Backyards and washing machines

When Doug and I moved here, we brought with us the nice washer and dryer that I had bought during my single in Portland days. Having done the laundromat/quarters-in-the-basement thing for years, I had really come to appreciate having my own laundry facilities. The first year that we lived here, I can remember various people from our church community using our washer and dryer at different times, like the summer crew of interns from UCLA who came to our neighborhood via the Los Angeles Urban Project (LAUP). We WERE their laundromat! As poor as we were, I can remember feeling grateful that we had something others needed that we could share.

Our second year here, good friends from our church moved into an apartment across the street. They were newlyweds, and they are both people who are very committed to living simply. At some point, they asked us if they could pitch in for our water bill and just plan to use our washer and dryer for doing their laundry. “Sure!” we said, eager to bless them and provide this unique form of hospitality. I will always remember what Kevin said after he asked us: “I just don’t believe that every person or household needs to have every thing.”

Our friends lived across the street for about a year before they were able to purchase a home for themselves a few blocks away. After they moved, we realized how much we missed their weekly presence in our home. Because our machines are on the back porch and they had the back-door key, they could come and go without making it into a social event–but more often than not, there was at least a brief time spent talking and laughing and checking in with each other.

I am struggling a bit right now with house-envy. Every other couple/family of our life-stage and background has been able to purchase a home here. This is simply not a reality for us, and it is something that weighs on me, both from the stewardship issue of investing large chunks of our income into someone else’s property (and subsequent equity/wealth/etc.) to the issue of space and yard. We will soon be a family of five, and while our apartment is actually quite generous in size, we have very limited storage and it is is just plain getting crowded. But my greatest longing is simply to have a fenced, grassy area where my children can safely play. While our property is quite beautiful, it is not very user-friendly for one and two-year olds, and there is a limit to how many times running up and down a cement driveway can be fun (although Mercy has seriously stretched this limit to impressive degrees).

As I was grumbling in my spirit about this the other day, I was struck by the steady generosity of two friends in particular who have made their yards an open invitation to us for play. Whether they are home or not, I do not think twice about walking over and letting myself in and enjoying their outdoor play space. As I thought about this, I was reminded of Kevin’s words more than three years ago: “I just don’t believe that every person or household needs to have every thing.” I realized that for our family, Anna and Ellen’s yards are our washer and dryer, and we are living out a different kind of expression of the simple living that Kevin had modeled for us.

And it made me think: what are the creative ways of living “communally” so to speak that we are missing out on because we lack the imagination to see alternatives to the me/mine consumerism that is the norm? Do we all really have to have our own set of everything?

11 thoughts on “Backyards and washing machines”

  1. I love these question!! It’s even harder when you can afford those things. Even sharing baby items that won’t be needed for a while is something simple we can do to care for eachother, build community, save money, and save other natural resources.

  2. I think the questions you are asking yourself are the questions we all need to be asking ourselves, even to the point of asking whether owning property is really a worthy “investment” for a person of faith. I know that I have wrestled in my own head with the idea of owning property, whether individually (a home) or corporately (a church). It just seems to me that if time is short and our days are numbered, community, ministry and caring for humanity would be better uses for that money.

    Just my $0.02 though :)

  3. As I read this tonight I chuckled. My friend just dropped off her clothes in a bag next to my chair as I type. Ah the college years! I agree with so much that you write it feels cliche to say: YEAH MAN YOU’RE RIGHT! hahaha, but yeah man you’re right.

  4. Imagine if we shared cars, lawn equipment and other items we use periodically? Generosity seems to lead to community.

  5. When Christians wrap their minds and hearts around this, they will truly be living out a part of the gospel that had long been dormant and even perverted. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

  6. Maria,

    A definite yes to the sharing of baby paraphernalia!!! We have had a lot of babies born in the last few years in our church, and I have seen some amazing sharing of everything to the point that many of us don’t even remember what was originally “ours”. Oh, and maternity clothes for sure!!!

    Dustin,

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think more people need to ask these questions and really examine cultural/social norms like home ownership from a biblical perspective. My friend Tyler has done that in a series on his blog which I totally commend to you (http://spacebetween.blogsome.com/)

  7. hmmm. i like that. i don’t think i have ever thought of it that way before. community can be such a great thing but too often we don’t use what resources we have

  8. Thank you for stating this so well! I have been thinking about this for quite some time, and one thing I’ve found surprising is the difficulty of receiving.
    I have thought a lot about the passages in Acts that comment on “they had everything in common,” and “they shared all they had” and “none were in need.” This implies that some had more than enough, and some needed to accept this overflow with thanksgiving.
    Not only did you share what you had, but you recognize and accept other’s offers of hospitality, too. In accepting from others, we humble ourselves and receive with thanksgiving. This honors the true Provider.
    Grace is a free gift, and we can only receive from our Lord, never repay. Whether laundry or yards, we must be willing to outstretch our hands and receive from each other. In doing so with tangible items, we model the reality of our spiritual hope, too.

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