You, me and the stranger on the street: A look at community
Community is a strange word. It will mean different things to different people. The common understanding of it is derived from breaking it down into two words, ‘common’ and ‘unity’ which translated means people that share something in common that unites them. A community can be loose relationships or more intimate relationships and can be forged around any common element.
As an elder and pastor of Southcity Church I am part of the Southcity community. As rugby coach I am part of a community that comprises my squad and fellow coaches. As a husband and father I am in a community called my family. These are all commonly accepted communities. The struggle we face in a country as diverse as South Africa is do we embrace the community in which we live that is so radically different?
We live on the Natal south coast amongst a diverse group of people who all call this area home. There are Xhosas; Zulus; English; Afrikaans; black; white; coloured; Chinese and Indian; rich and poor. We share a living space, shopping space and recreational space. Our children share the schools they are in and we all share the same hospitals. We have so much in common yet as much that is different and that separates us.
Within the socio-economic differences we face we need to realise that until we start seeing all people in our community as part of our community we will always live past one another’s problems instead of coming to the aid of one another. The consequence of this will always be smaller communities being at odds with one another rather than embracing one another. If the economically impoverished group of people resort to crime to provide for themselves they will steal from the wealthy. That means that the wealthy should be taking more interest in aiding sustainability amongst the poor rather than barricading themselves from the poor. At the same time the impoverished tempted to pursue crime as an option should consider that the very people they may steal from could be the people seeking to aid them. When we understand community, hurting our neighbour means hurting ourselves and ignoring the plight of our neighbour means being negligent to our future. This is social-justice or as Jesus referred to it as ‘loving your neighbour’.
The task of building the nation does not lie in the hands of our government but in the day to day of its people and until we start seeing every person living near to us as our community regardless of their mansion or shack we will not see this country become what we desire it to be.