Reaching toward community – an occasional series (#001) #roddreher #littleway

I’ve just finished reading a lovely book by Rod Dreher entitled The Little way of Ruthie Leming. It tells the story of his sister’s struggle with and eventual death from cancer – but the book offers so much more besides. It is above all a story about place and belonging, and a reflection on what it means to be at home, to stay at home, to leave home, or to return home.

Rod Dreher’s sister Ruthie was the one who stayed home, in small-town Louisiana. He was the one who left home and then (following her death) returned home. The book is also a plea for us to acknowledge and rediscover the gifts of deep community – the kind of community that can only be built over generations and by way of a commitment to life in a particular place. His story and reflections are a plea for the humanizing of our lives, a humanizing that he discovers in Ruthie herself.

Dreher’s book gets me thinking, in the first instance, about my identity as the son of a minister.  Being a preacher’s kid has meant that an establishment of the kinds of local roots described by Dreher has been impossible for me. I spent formative years as a child in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and then in the towns of Beaverton and Hagersville in Ontario – calls to new congregations meant calls to new towns and schools and relationships. And while I have some sense of attachment to these places, that attachment and identification does not go very deep. In my youth I never had the experience of needing to run away from the suffocating life of a particular small town (in the way that Dreher did). Rather, it’s that I was never given the opportunity put down roots in any such place. Continue reading

the daily grind: caring

This past week I was in Ontario for a couple of days to attend the funeral of an uncle of mine. His name was Andy, and he was 59 years old.  After a two year battle with cancer, he died at home a week and a half ago surrounded by his family.

I wasn’t terribly close to my uncle Andy. He was almost a generation younger than my father. Also, my family never lived in very close proximity to my uncle and his family – growing up we would usually see them once or twice a year. It had probably been 7 years since I had seen my uncle.

 Over the past two years, however, I received regular updates about my uncle’s battle with cancer. As I read those emails, and then as I attended the funeral service last week, one of the things that struck me was the amount of care that my Aunt Lucy provided. Particularly in the last months and weeks of her husband’s life she offered an intense level of care. She comforted Andy, fed him, washed him, gave medicines, cried with him, laughed with him. Caring for her husband was my aunt’s preoccupation, with increasing intensity over the past year. Continue reading