Yesterday, I met someone new. Come to find out, according to him he was one of the "originals" that took to living together and extending their home to homeless folk on the other side of town. I hadn't met him before, but I'd met some of the "originals", so I said something like, "Oh really! Well, we know them. They've been over here several times and we've talked. Our friend used to live over there with yall. I'm surprised we hadn't run into each other before." And his response is, "Yeah, I'd heard there were some older people doing community over here, but had never had the chance to stop by and visit." I burst into laughter. Older people? Are you joking? I'm 34 years old!
He goes on to explain that he looks a lot older than he really is. He has a degree, but it is a two year degree. He's not old at all, he's 21.
Well, I won't go into how I felt at his "accusation" of me being old or how I am sort of annoyed that somehow he heard through the grapevine that there were older people doing community over here. The thought of several people talking about us in a way that leads others to believe that we're old...and in this instance, he made it sound like old wasn't good ( or else why wouldn't he have come to visit sooner?) just rubs me the wrong way.
24 hours later, and I can't get the comment out of my head. But what's bothering me more his lack of manners and sensitivity is his...and maybe, potentially, other's perception of me, us, our community.
So we're not hipsters. We don't wear tight pants and have visible tatoos. I don't use hair product or know how to use all the apps on my smart phone. Does this make us old? Bad? Not cool? And then there's the fact that we don't wear baggy clothes and we don't have dreads, we don't wear potchouli. Does this make us less than cool?
And if people are talking about us in a way that seems to include some language that describes us in a not so popular or pleasant way, could this be one of the reasons why we haven't managed to gain committed community members.
I know there are things about ourselves that others cannot see. Are we old? dated? uncool?
I honestly thought we were living radically, doing things differently, being creative, and making our best attempt at being faithful. I wanted to think that people thought we were cool but just couldn't buy into the radical nature in which we live. I wanted to think that the reason we couldn't gain in number was because personalities clashed or the neighborhood or community just wasn't the right fit. I can swallow these thoughts, though they are not pleasant. But, if what this guy says is true, then there are people who are making attempts to live radically and they are doing things differently, but they are choosing not to do it with us...evidently because we're old, dated, "mature in our faith" is what he tried to smooth things over by saying.
"Wise, experience, and seasoned," I'd much rather be described by these adjectives. But, then the question still sits there...if he knew there were people living in intentional community and offering their homes as places of hospitality, much like him, then why didn't he make the connection earlier? The only thing I can figure is that we weren't...enough. I can't really think of it any other way. To be a communitarian means to be in touch with and in partnership with other folks, especially those who are doing the same work and living similar lifestyles.
We'd had contact with his folks (and others) because we respected what they were doing, wanted to show our support, and valued the perspective they had.
I know it's not the best place to land and that I might not be able to see all the sides of the story, but I'm left with a feeling of, well plainly put, not being valued.
No body likes that feeling, including me.
I don't think the guy meant to say what he did. It was probably a little slip up. But it spoke volumes to me. Now I've just gotta figure out what to do about it.