A few years ago I was introduced to some interesting observations: That it is hard to find someone with celiac disease in Italy due to the way they make their bread and grow their grain. Then there was the absence of ‘attention deficit disorder’ in many countries outside of the western world. Is this true?
This leads to a conversation I had this past weekend regarding Ethiopia and how the welcoming and hospitable culture give reason for why you would be hard pressed to find a depressed person in that country. In fact, the conversation gave way to how people are not even prone to using words like ‘introverted’ or ‘extroverted’ to describe another or themselves. This was followed by a debriefing on how the culture of individuality in North America seemed odd to those who grew up in countries like Ethiopia.
For the majority of the past 80 – 100 years, western culture has been driven to create individuality and independence in a world created by God to be in community. Perhaps that is why Jesus was so big on loving neighbours. Maybe he did have our best interests in mind while we were so busy keeping ourselves distanced (walking on the other side of the road) from our neighbour and creating our own Kingdom so not to be dependent on those who live around us.
So it was no surprise to hear the conversation gently suggest that our challenge to live in community, such as loving those on our road or block, may be a major contributing factor to some of our social illness. The Bible does say that love covers a lot of ground. If we spend a great deal of our time keeping our distance when we were created to be in community, something has to give. Stats do show that those with valuable relationships in the place that they live, lending itself to a sense of deepening community, live an average 5 years longer than those who cannot say the same. It is no secret that healthy relationships have always been key to healthy lives, whether a family unit or a neighbourhood.
And now that I am writing this, I do remember people from other countries finding it kind of odd that neighbourhoods in North America are filled with people who do not know each other’s names, attributes, let alone matters of their neighbour’s heart.