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Neighbor-Love, part 2: Learning to Receive

…Our humility shows itself first in the readiness to receive service from our fellow men, and supremely from God…It is well for us to stand on our own feet; to go through life in parasitic dependence on others, contributing nothing, is contemptible; but those who are doing their share of the world’s work should have no hesitation in receiving what the love or generosity or pity of others may offer. –William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury

As Christian preppers we’re often reminded that we need to take responsibility for ourselves, and to be ready to help our neighbors. These things are important, and they go against the messages of the consumer culture. But if we are to be able to give we also need to learn how to receive with grace.

We all have to receive, gracefully or otherwise. In the conventional economy people speak of earning their own livings and paying their own way, but in fact they depend on the labor of hundreds of unseen people, strangers to them, who produce the necessary goods that they buy. Those of us who live off the grid in one way or another still depend on technologies and philosophies worked out by other people, and in bad weather or in sickness or when we’re trying to get major projects done we’re apt to need direct help from our neighbors too.  We all need one another’s help.  The challenge is to do what we can for ourselves and others, and to acknowledge the help that we need and receive, and to give thanks.

This is especially difficult, and important, when we receive help from people whom we had intended to help. I’ve spent the last eleven years living and working on a small Christian farming community. Sometimes volunteers come wanting to Serve the Poor and are un comfortable when we encourage them to look at their daily lives and the ways in which poorer people serve them. We in turn have been humbled by gifts of time, help, sympathy, counsel and money from people whom we had seen as carrying a heavier load than ours and in need of help.  Accepting their gifts gratefully, we received needed help, and we saw also that they received something important—the satisfaction of being able to give.


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