Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faith Works 1-21

Faith Works 1-21-12

Jeff Gill


Mobility and immobility each have their downsides



First, a correction: I never knew this until a very kind call after my column last week about Father Tom and our visits to Maybold Shoes; that was Floyd McKenna I was introduced to, and so enjoyed speaking with. He was so much the spirit of the place as I knew it that I just internalized him as "Floyd Maybold," which of course was incorrect.


When you live in a place long enough, you start to do that sort of thing; you know much, and you don't always know how little you know.


It was interesting to me remembering, as I wrote that last week, that I really only "lived" in my hometown, as I still consider it, of Valparaiso, Indiana for seventeen years. I left for college, my parents still live (most of the year, anyhow) in the home where I grew up, but after starting college I was never there for more than three weeks at a time until the Lovely Wife and I married, and since then never more than three nights. So I lived in my hometown for seventeen years.


But we've now lived in Licking County, Ohio for a total of seventeen years. Five homes in three communities, but seventeen years, and this was the first Christmas season we've set up the tree in the same house for seven years (our old record was six). God willing, he prayed sincerely, we will run that number well up into double digits as well.


So we are no longer "mobile," by intention. Our lives and commitments, short and long term, circle around this place, and all things being equal (Deus volent) we can stay put. For us, that's not just good, but it is very good.


In today's economy, stability and rootedness are not an abstract economic good. The mobility of capital and the ability of workers to relocate are considered almost vital necessities, and for the particular family or individual who has their reasons for not being able to move, well, "devil take the hindmost."


So we see a bias in employment opportunity for the young, the rootless, those who are more able or willing to pick up stakes and travel to where the jobs are, or are perceived to be. That's how you get ahead, that's improvement, often (in many fields) the only way to advance. Many large corporations make it clear from management training on up that if you want to advance, by which they usually mean not only more responsibility but the only way to increase your pay, you have to be willing to go where the company asks you to go.


Which means you leave a place you know, where the young woman at the drive-up window knows your name, where you've found a good auto mechanic and family physician, a place that you know where to go for a walk, or take your family for a picnic . . . you leave there, and go someplace where you start over again.


Some folks thrive on this kind of clean slate, but many respond by pulling in their horns, drawing the blinds, and withdrawing from a community they're just too weary to learn from scratch.


And the ultimate irony of this mobility-fetish in our economy as we have it is that often it's those mobile folk who end up staying home when work is over, finding comfort in food and mindless leisure, and start to pay a price for their pay bumps and title upgrades in their health.


Without meaning to be too terribly revolutionary here, it seems as if we know darn good and well that encouraging and supporting family and geographic stability is good for people and communities, and that for those individuals and our common health (not to mention commonwealth) it's good for more of us to just move a little bit more. Not that we all become fitness freaks, just that if we all moved around a little more, we'd all be better off.


Mobility in the social sense has its ills, and immobility in the physical sense does as well, and there may be a bit of a connection between the two.


Is it just me, or do any of you in faith communities see an opportunity here? To reach out to new residents and help them find their footing, and for congregations to pledge not just their paychecks, but their shoe leather, to get up and get moving together?


We can talk about Paula Deen and church potlucks later, but I think you can tell where I'm headed.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's trying to up his exercise activity, too. Tell him how your church got moving at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.