It all started when we moved to our fabulous first home in 2006. We quickly found out that the ‘big lot with many mature trees’ translated into ‘huge amounts of leaves that require hours of work.’ Work and ibuprofen for days. Growing up, I had always thought that it would be cool to jump into leaf piles. I mean, I had probably jumped into some piles of leaves, but nothing very big. We lived on a farm and raking leaves was not on the to do list. This was my chance to change all that! I decided to make gigantic leaf piles for the kids and I to play in. It was awesome!
The leaf piles appealed to me for many reasons. It was free fun that we could do with our kids. It was outdoors, natural, active. We loved it, and the next year we invited over some close friends to join in. We had a blast and that was the start of our annual leaf party.
At that time God was putting on our hearts the idea that we could be more involved with our neighbors. God was showing us the verses that talk about being among the lost. Of being light in the dark. Of sharing the good news. The word that kept coming up was “Among.” Don’t hide away in a little Christian group, be “Among.”
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with our neighbors. Quite the contrary, they were wonderful! They shovel our driveway. One bought us Worlds of Fun tickets. They invite us over. Many of them held the same beliefs and values. My point is simply that we, like many people, chose to spend most of our time with people who were just like us. People who believed 99% of what we believed, looked like us, talked like us, etc. We were a cozy, comfortable club. (And that’s good, by the way. You need to spend time in community with like-minded folks.)
So it is a balance. It becomes unhealthy to spend all your time in community but none of your time out in the community. To be among people who may not believe exactly like you, or who voted for the other guy in the last presidential election. People who make a lot more or a lot less than you, or who are annoying, or who you simply have not met yet.
So, we made it a point to invite people to our leaf party from our work, families, church, and from our neighborhood. We wanted to purposefully mix up all 4 of those different worlds. We wanted to break down the artificial social constructs that limit the interactions between those different groups of people.
It is our desire that we will live lives of integrity and train our kids to do so also. (More on this later.) One part of integrity means that you are the same, regardless of circumstances, regardless of setting. So this Leaf Party was a pretty big step out for us. We felt like it was a wonderful success each year that we have done it. Our kids helped, and they got excited to bless our friends and neighbors. We showed hospitality. We created an environment in which caring conversations can occur. It is open and non-threatening, and is genuinely a lot of fun for everyone.
As I wrap up, I hope that you will start thinking about the different worlds that you occupy:
Do you live a life of integrity, where you are the consistent in each setting? How are you uniting these worlds? What have you done to bless your neighbors? To influence your coworkers? To model sacrificial generosity to your kids?
It may not take much. Look around you…what activities do you like to do? What do you have available? For us, all it took was some leaves!