Sunday, June 01, 2008


Sometimes things seem too good to be true. You want to believe they’re for real, but you’re not certain you can let yourself believe them. But when you do, you are truly blessed.

Saturday I helped out at the Jefferson Hills Church Free Car Wash. Yeah, it was free—totally free. And people found it hard to believe.

The questions flew, “Why are you doing a free car wash? Do you really want donations? Do you have another, ulterior motive?”

The answers I gave were, “We’re doing this as a gift to the community. No, we really don’t want donations. We have no ulterior motive other than letting you know that as Jesus washed feet, we’re washing cars, and we want you to know about our church.”

A lot of people acted impressed that any group would do anything for anyone for no money nowadays. The idea of “community” is a foreign concept for many. They live in their cars—they drive to work, to school, to any outside activities they might participate in and then they drive home and close and lock their doors.

They never get to know their neighbors. They never really get to know the community where they live. They bought their homes because of the zip code. Literally. Someone told them to buy property in such-and-such suburb because in three years’ time they could sell their house at a profit. And they do just that usually, moving on to the next desirable zip code where, most likely, they’ll never meet their new neighbors, either.

People in suburbia these days are used to paying through the nose for everything—gasoline for the SUV, dance lessons for the kids, fake nails applied weekly, drive-through dinners, etc.

So the absolutely, totally free car wash concept just didn’t make sense to these folks. Their organic onboard computer (i.e., brain) said, “Does not compute!”

But it does make more sense to me now why Jesus came about 2000 years ago, before cars and air conditioning and cable TV and the Internet. People had to walk or take a donkey cart to get anywhere 2000 years ago. They knew their neighbors a bit more since they seldom wandered far from home. And they depended on their neighbors’ help and generosity to get by more often than not.

People weren’t as isolated from their communities. They talked to each other in person rather than to a stranger over a cell phone. And in community they shared their common experiences and related how Jesus had impacted their lives for the better.

This recent car washing experience gives me a bit more insight into writing contemporary characters. The suburbanite of today has a disconnect with the community he or she resides in. It’s rare nowadays for neighbors to share their common experiences or to even tell each other about how Jesus has impacted their lives for the better. Suburbanites hold a cautiously cynical view of the world and can’t believe that others would do anything for them free with no strings attached.

But they certainly like getting their Humvees and SUVs washed.


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clynsg said...

I agree about the disconnect, and must admit I am just as guilty as anyone else. Before I retired I lived in a townhouse neighborhood in Maryland, and although I recognized a few of my neighbors, I didn't KNOW them. This is probably partly because my children were grown and I didn't have that connection to the community either. Now I live in the country and the reasons for not knowing the neighbors are different, but the fact is still that there are limited people that I relate to in the community.

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