"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Friday, July 31, 2015

On Stoop Living

Growing up, I had one thing I dreamed about my adult life including more than anything. It wasn’t a wedding day. Or a big fancy career. No, the one thing I envisioned as being the pinnacle of adulthood was a stoop. You know, a wide, stairway leading to a home, usually found in city dwellings and often times located next to another stoop. It’s the place in movies where neighbors would sit and talk for hours on hot summer days in between games of street football or jumping through the water from spraying fire hydrants. Perhaps it was my days watching Sesame Street as a small girl. Or Crooklyn as an angsty adolescent. But a stoop represented something that I knew I’d long for in my adulthood: community, conversation, life.  

I didn’t get a stoop. Stoops are in the city and I’ve lived the majority of my adult life in the suburbs, marked by cookie cutter homes, locked doors, and fenced yards. I was right about the longings of adults though – community, conversation, and life pretty much sums it up. It’s a craving I’ve seen time and time again, especially in women. But our social media laced existence has given us a false sense that we are satisfying that desire and so we come to the virtual stoop multiple times a day, looking for someone to engage with. As with any substitute for the real thing, we walk away feeling unfulfilled yet bloated, like we never really got what we wanted in the first place.

It’s got me thinking lately: what is it that keeps us from getting that thing we all want more than anything? It is the speed of our lives? Calendars completely booked months in advance? Or Pinterest induced insecurities that tell us not to let anyone in to the interior of our existence before it can be pinned and favorited? Have we filled ourselves with the junk food version of community by becoming peeping toms into the highs of each other’s days through Facebook? Have texts just become enough for interaction? Perhaps it’s a combination of it all, but one thing I know is that we were made for stoop living.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)

So many of us are falling and no one even notices, let alone helps us up because we have given up real, live, meaningful, consistent interactions with one another. Marriages are crumbling. Depression is overtaking. People are hurting, but there is no one who even sees it.

Community, though, has purpose beyond just our own personal benefit:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

Stoops, dinner tables, living rooms—these are the places where we get our tanks filled up. As the great philosophizer Taylor Swift once alluded, the world is filled with haters who are gonna hate, hate, hate. We need spaces where we can gather and find our cheerleaders and co-laborers. People and conversations sprinkled with belief that we can do this thing called life and do it well in the midst of whatever circumstances God has placed us in: motherhood, mourning, brokenness, or on the mountaintops in our stories.

Hebrews tells us “not to give up meeting together” and goes on to say “as some are in the habit of doing.”  That tells me that community is a habit. It’s a choice we have to make daily. It requires turning off the computer, clearing off the calendar, and picking up the phone to say come on over. It is scary because it takes away the veneer of perfection that we so meticulously control with every Instagram post. It is vulnerable because we never know what awaits on the other end of the invitation. A no can feel like rejection that none of us want to endure. It can be painful because of the imperfect beings we invite inside may end up being a source of hurt. Real community requires a courage and a boldness some of us don’t feel like we can muster up quite yet.

I’ve watched countless women sit inside and look out the window, longing to come find a spot on the stoop. Day after day, I’ve seen people knock on their doors and invite them out, but they refuse. However, every so often their response will change and they will come and sit. I’ve yet to hear one ever say they regret stoop living. No, their words are always, “I wish I would’ve come out sooner.”

Here’s to finding your place on the stoop!


Your turn:

What keeps you from real community more than anything: fears, insecurities, or busyness? What have you done to seek it out? Does your home have a stoop, a place where people can come and conversation and life can emerge?  


Andrea West said...

My "stoop" is my front porch and it's begging for Sunday night church. Let's do this. Soon!

Sabrina Carter said...

You're post is right on time. I am writing the same thing(not in such a brilliant manner as yours) on my blog. After being off of Facebook for 31 days I've learned several things. The main one to be that I have absolutely NO idea what happened in the lives of my so called friends last month. That devastates me. When reaching out gets no response, what then?

Riki Seigler said...

So true. For years I have wondered where has the village gone? We all get so busy and leave out time for those important coffee cup conversations in our homes. If Technology helps us connect more why do we feel more disconnected?