Life in Community

work • simplicity • education
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Life in Community

Caring Commmunity

May 3, 2016 by

Compulsive hoarding – or at least our awareness of it – is on the rise, the Washington Post tells us. One of the most-read articles in the New York Times last year was the story of George Bell, a lonely hoarder who died unknown, unloved, in his packed apartment. No one noticed for about a week.

The phenomenon is not really new, as these stories admit – there have always been loners, compulsive collectors, and people who are both – but I find it ironic that in this age of supposed ever-greater connectedness between all of us, hoarding and its attendant loneliness haven’t become any less common. But at least now it’s being recognized as a legitimate health issue, something that needs to be addressed with both personal counseling and a public health response.

As I read George Bell’s story last year, and as I was reminded again of the problem when a colleague sent me the Post article, I wanted to turn away from the bleak despair, to thank God that my life in a caring community of committed Christians would preclude me from ever experiencing, in my own life or in the life of someone close to me, such a pathetic end. But as I recalled the words of Jesus, stern words about storing up treasure on earth, and wondered if perhaps Bell and his ilk had met their just desserts, my conscience pricked me with another story of Jesus: that of the Pharisee who prays quite sanctimoniously, thanking God that he is not like the tax collector standing nearby.

There is also this: let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Feeling thus chastened, I resolved to remember more frequently those lines about where my treasure is and where my heart is, and to apply them to myself. Hoarding is a problem that transcends mere religious platitudes, and it’s probably more than any one public health initiative can fully address. Articles like the Post’s should remind us to be more caring toward our neighbors, to be more vigilant in our checking in on them, and to be more Christ-like in our love to our fellow humans. And we can’t do that if we’re too busy with our own lives, our kids, our careers.

community members share a meal together outdoors

In his infinite wisdom, Jesus knew that if any one of us wants to follow him, we simply need to lift our eyes to our brothers and sisters around us rather than gazing into heaven. Because it’s only when we’re serving the least of these that we can serve him.

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Red Zimmerman

Red Zimmerman

Red Zimmerman lives at the Woodcrest Bruderhof and is the editor of Bruderhof.com.

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  • Thank you and bless you. I'm a hoarder of models and tools and items that might be useful one day! However I have been clearing up my things and seeing the Lord's hand in my past. I have some treasures which I will keep but I do intend to de-clutter my home and life to concentrate on the important. Blessings to you.

    Kevin