As part of my YAV year, churches in the DMV have asked to have me and my housemate preach for a Sunday. The following is the sermon I gave at Rockville Presbyterian Church.
Good morning, my name is Drew Hill, and I am so excited to be here in DC for the year serving with L’Arche, a non-profit that builds, sustains, and supports communities around core members with intellectual disabilities. I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico, a smaller city where it can be almost impossible to go to the grocery store without seeing someone you know, or many times someone you’ve known your whole life.
But while I’ve been in DC, now and then I have felt like I’ve been walking around inside a simulation.
Not genuinely but definitely a disconnection to the world and people around me. I think it is because of this change I’ve experienced coming from Santa Fe, to what feels so massive and bustling like DC.
I have noticed how easy it is to keep to myself even though so many people and so much is happening around me. I don’t enjoy it. Sometimes I find it lonely and a bit sad. I’ve learned how easy it is for me to leave the house on my own little missions. How easy it is to observe others as doing their own things without much room for intersection and spontaneous interaction. I’ve noticed how easy it is to keep my head down when passing people on the street or to look at my phone or a book on the bus and metro. Yet, I also have noticed those little spontaneous interactions that do happen, or I make room for them to happen as more important and beautiful.
Last weekend after church Lucy and I were walking back to the metro station when we passed a spin bike studio. As we walked, I made a really weird face to a man on a spin bike inside. Just wide open eyes and a touch of a smile. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. He saw me in my moment of spontaneity and recognized me with a wink and a smile.
Later that day we were walking to dinner and as we passed a window of the Lincoln theater with a large very lifelike sculpture of Lincoln in it. I heard two girls on the sidewalk comment that he probably had really messed up teeth. I broke out into laughter as we walked. I heard them break out into laughter in response to mine and I turned around to see them smiling at me.
I have started to find out what it is about these tiny tiny interactions that have become so meaningful to me. They prove to me that I’m not just on my little mission, that everyone else is not either. We’re all part of this greater web of interaction and interconnection with one another.
At the recent presbytery meeting, I told a brief story about one of my experiences with my friend Michael, who is a core member at the L’arche home I share time at. Michael and I often go to the McDonalds around the corner to pick up coffee. He has gone to this Mcdonalds multiple times a week, nearly every day, for around 40 years. When I’ve gone with him he waves or says hello to almost every person we pass. He makes room for spontaneous interaction and interconnection with each wave and hello. He does so with courage, well knowing four out of 5 people he says hi to will say nothing back.
As I see him wave, I think about how I can feel some days as I walk on the street, how much it would mean to me to be seen and greeted by a stranger. He inspires me with each wave and each hello to open myself up to connection. He inspires me to open up to real people and the authentic world by being real and authentic.
Lucy and I, along with our site coordinator Blair, are reading a book called emergent strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. It’s all about using the power of connection, relational thinking, and biomimicry to create, strengthen and progress social justice movements.
In thinking about adaptation to change, much like the change I am experiencing moving to DC, Adrienne Maree Brown looks at the flocking patterns of starlings. These birds flock with no set leader, they move as a collective, relying on the movements of the birds next to them to adapt their direction. I want you to imagine crossing a street, yet only looking at the people next to you, not oncoming traffic. It takes trust and a true belief in connection and community to move in the way starlings move. It takes a belief that your community is really there to lean on you and you on it.
How beautiful would it be for the world to truly be in community? How much could we learn about each other’s gifts and needs, if we all took the time to say hello and to authentically open ourselves up to others.
Today I hope to challenge myself, and you all, to be in community, to move, wave, laugh and smile with strangers. I hope we can do this not just for the joy and love that we will experience from being in community, but for the welfare of the city and the greater world. Let us be called out into community this day. Thank you all so much for inviting us today, and I look forward to seeing you all on the street.
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