Just Show UP- Nuts and Bolts #6

By Wendy McCaig of Embrace Richmond

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Through this series on the nuts and bolts of asset based community development, we have looked at the importance of defining geography,shifting paradigms, identifying local assets, gathering people who care andthe value of peer learning groups.

In this post we will explore the essential component of being “present” or as my friend Charles says, “of just showing up.”  Being fully present in a neighborhood is much easier if you are an actual resident. However, simply living in a neighborhood does not mean you are fully present there.

I was reminded of this truth this past week by my new friend Norman shown here.  I met Norman over a year ago, back before I lived in the neighborhood and before we had relocated our offices to Brookland Park – back in the day when all we had was a street corner we called our own every Thursday.  One Thursday, Norman was walking by and asked us what we were doing.  We said we were praying for Brookland Park and asked him if he wanted to join us.  Not only did he join us, he prayed for a house we were renovating at the time and we were all deeply moved by his prayer.  That was the first and last time I saw Norman.

This past Thursday, I got to our building and found that the heater was not working very well.  It was colder inside than outside, so I grabbed a couple of chairs and put them on the sidewalk and decided to catch up on email outside.

I had been working for less than five minutes when Norman walked up. Norman reminded me that the day he prayed with us, we had prayed for our building.  He sat down beside me filled with curiosity about what this place called Embrace Richmond was.  Over the next 45 minutes, I learned that Norman is a small business owner who lives in the neighborhood and is seeking to get more involved in the community.  I invited him to sit in on our village teammeeting and watched as his wheels started turning, regarding the ways his business could support the efforts of our team leaders.  Norman is a potential neighborhood asset.

I realized later that had I followed my normal routine, I would have been in the building when Norman walked by that morning.  I also realized that my willingness to stop what I was doing and offer Norman a chair beside me allowed me to be fully present with him and to receive what he had to share with me.

There have been many days when I simply would not have welcomed the interruption. In our busy, over-scheduled world, being present to the stranger is probably one of the most neglected spiritual practices in the Christian faith.  When we make ourselves available to the stranger we are both “practicing the presence of God” and extending Christian hospitality.  Practicing the presence of God means that we recognize that God is here now, moving through our everyday activities, no matter how trivial they might seem.  When we practice hospitality toward the stranger we open ourselves up to being changed by the presence of God that dwells in our guest.

Being present in a community means that we seek to join in with whatever is happening in that place and allow it to transform us.  The events that impact that place impact us.  The people who shape that place shape us.   Being present in a place requires intentionality and a desire to discover God at work in the people and circumstances around you.   It truly is a spiritual practice that can be transformative to both the one seeking to see God at work as well as the stranger and ultimately the place.

How are you practicing the presence of God in your community?

How are you extending hospitality to the stranger in your neighborhood?

What gifts have you received from these unexpected guests?

“Forever is composed of nows.” – Emily Dickinson


For more articles from Wendy, visit wendymccaig.com


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