BRINGING THE BEACH HOME: COMMUNAL LIVINGOne of the most enjoyable aspects of the beach (for me) was the communal living. All aspects of domestic life were heightened by shared responsibility and constant companionship. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, and leisure time were all spent in community. I think I would really love to live this way. It is so encouraging! Burdens are so much lighter, joys that much greater.
Most of the world lives in tribes, communities, large extended families, etc. I suppose some of that has been lost as our culture has become more global and living together has become the exception, rather than the rule, at least here in the US. My goal is to figure out how to translate the concepts of communal living into my life. Realistically, I am not going to sell my house and move into a commune. However, I do have the exceptional gift of living in the same town as much of my family. Outside of them, I have my larger church family and friends in the community.
How can I translate the concepts of tribe into my own life? I know it starts with me being more intentional in my relationships. My mom and I already practice several aspects of communal living, such as sharing childcare several times a week.
Also, we have lunch at church one Sunday a month with many other families. Our whole family LOVES this Sunday meal. The kids look forward to it, and so do we. Everyone brings food, the kids play, the adults talk, everyone cleans up. I wish we did it every Sunday.
Occasionally, my friend Charlotte, and I will spend the whole day together at one of our houses. The kids play, and she and I (usually with our babies on our backs) either move furniture around, make bread, hang laundry, sew, or just sit and talk and watch the children play. We both love it so much and are so encouraged. We never fail to have great conversations that make us think and the work is so much more pleasant when in the company of a friend.
When my friend, Stacy, was on maternity leave, we had dinner at our houses at least once a week. It was so much fun. The kids were so happy to play with their friends and it was great to have a break from the normal late-afternoon-crankies. I have missed those dinners now that she has gone back to work, but hope we can pick them back up at least once a week during the summer (she is a teacher).
I am not a person that needs constant company. I love my alone time. I cherish the time that I can spend in quiet and solitude. In fact, I am at this moment at a coffee shop, by myself, and am blissfully happy. I love my friends, but I am just as happy alone. That was the great thing about being at the beach. We all lived together (six adults and seven children) in one house, and shared all the common areas, but all had our own rooms to retreat to. Also, because we were sharing the workload, there were little pockets of time throughout the day that we could sneak off for a few moments of quiet.
I am still working through this topic in my mind, but here are a few ways that I have thought of to incorporate communal living concepts into our single-family-in-the-suburbs-mentality.
-Have an open door policy at our house: invite friends over several times a week. Don't make it formal. It is not about entertaining. It is simple hospitality. Fold the laundry while you talk. Start dinner.
-Work on projects with friends. Have a modern day barn raising: canning food together, bake bread, work on a hobby, etc. Cook several meals to split and stock the freezers.
-Swap childcare. Give each other a break to run errands or get a pedicure!
-Share the bounty. Growing a garden? Share what you grow with friends. Making a pie? Make two and give one to a neighbor. Perhaps you could even share bigger things, like yard tools and such. We share a lawnmower with two of our neighbors. We don't own one, because we have a wooded lot with very little grass. So, once or twice a season, my hubby will borrow the neighbors lawnmower to clean things up a bit around the yard. He returns it with a pork loin, or some steaks.
What ways do you practice community?
(Next Bringing the Beach Home topic: Vacation state of mind, at Home)
*Image from Shelby Nycole on flickr.com