Flat Tires, Friends, and Intentional Community

So, it’s 10 ’til midnight and I’m sitting on the side of the road in my van with my kids, four-ways flashing. My husband, who is going on 24 hours without sleep is with a dear friend, running up the road to the nearest Meijer to purchase a tool to get a couple stubborn lug nuts off a flat tire. We’ve been sitting in this spot on the road for almost 2 1/2 hours.

We were on our way to visit my dad and help him with a project. The idea was to get there tonight and get a good night’s sleep so we could get up early tomorrow and get a full day of work in renovating his back yard. But, our low tire light came on and we pulled over to make sure everything was ok, just like we always do (the light comes on frequently and it’s usually just a computer sensor problem). All the tires checked out except the last one. The cap was somehow rusted on and when Brandon tried to take it off, the valve stem broke and all the air came gushing out.

We’re about an hour and a half from my dad yet, but only 30 minutes from friends that we’ve known since we lived in western NY who also moved to Michigan. There aren’t many people I would be comfortable calling so late at night but they are on the list. Without a moment’s hesitation, he rushed to help us on the side of the road while she set up the guest bed and put our some sleeping bags in the family room for our kids.

They welcomed us into their home at 1:30 am  without question, fed us an amazing breakfast the next morning, and we spent, and we spent the day visiting and relaxing together while the van was at the repair shop. Never once did they hint that our unexpected visit was any sort of inconvenience or complain about the disruption to their plans or the lack of sleep from the adventures of the night before. They opened their home and their hearts to use with compassion and love. Instead of a delay in our trip over an inconvenience to deal with, the flat tire became an opportunity to spend time with and catch up with friends.

We finally got back on the road around 3:30 pm and made it to my dad’s around 4:30, close to 24 hours later than we had planned. We are so thankful and so blessed to have dear friends that we know will be there for us no matter what. There is a short list of people we know we can call on no matter the circumstance or the time of day (or night) and the can (and have) called us, too.

It seems to me that this used to be the norm. You knew the people around you – really knew them. Neighbors talk to each other, helped each other out, and loaned out their tools as needed. You knew the people in your town because you worked together, played together, shopped together… did life together. Community is a dying lifestyle. Longer commutes, larger towns and cities, more frequent moves (instead of deep family roots in one place), and social media have all helped contribute to the decay of true community. It’s still possible. You just have to put more effort into creating a circle of true friends and you all have to invest in each other to make it happen.

We love our circle of friends from western NY. They are as much family to us as any one of our blood relatives. That took time, though. Time, honesty, and vulnerability. But the depth and the richness of those relationships is beyond measure. It is still possible to build and participate in community; we just have to be more intentional about it because opportunities do not naturally present themselves as often as they used to.

We have missed being part of a close-knit community since moving to Michigan. We moved from a very rural, slow-paced town to a much busier city. Brandon and I need to be more intentional about taking the time to really connect with and get to know people and, slowly but surely, I know we will expand our community with new people who live closer to where we are now and I am looking forward to living life together and supporting each other as we grow together.

What about you? How have you built your tribe/community/circle? What do you value most about being part of an intentional community?

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