Community with the Campground

A dreary, cold April day was not what we planned for, but Springtime in middle TN is a hit or miss game. The day started off early and slowly, as most of the residents of TN have already switched to spring/summer mode and can no longer deal with a chilly, rainy day. I knew I’d meet some interesting people today, but I never would have thought I would be spend almost all of my day discussing life, Mayan prophecies, and nomadic travel with a 75-year-old homeless man, originally from Indonesia. 

Approximately six months ago, I presented my idea to offer a meal. A meal that anyone could come to, regardless of socio-economical status or religion (the two great dividers in this region). It wouldn’t be funded by a church or organization, just a group of people who wanted to get together, eat, and partake in community. {It has recently become my belief that the best, truest way to community is through eating a meal with someone. E.g.-Jesus.} In my vision, we would be offering something that some people may not have (food), but more importantly be offering something that all of our souls need (community). I wanted this to help remove the divisive pronouns from our vocabulary; there is no ‘them’ or ‘us’ there is only we. The people who I shared this idea with latched on, as we had just finished a Bible Class on the book Radical by David Platt, and at the end of his book (which I’ve still yet to actually read) he challenges Christians to do five things, one of which was to improve your community.

Thus the idea for a Community Meal was planted. We spent time drafting ideas, picking a place, a market to target, and eventually started picking up steam and organizers who wanted to be part of what we were doing. We had planned on a grill out for a local campground where approximately 100-150 people live permanently. It’s mostly made up of old parked RV’s in separate lots. 

We walked around inviting people and making sure that they knew what was happening and we got a few poeple out to walk through the mud to the community room, where we were eating and playing games. We were forced inside most of the day, but as lunch dragged out a little, people wandered outside to play a game of corn hole or badminton; we also had a bluegrass band played and a large BINGO cage that we play for various prizes. 

I suppose the only thing that surprised me on this day, was how disconnected the residents of this campground are, because generally speaking, in poverty situations community is much stronger than in a wealthy community. This campground, however, did not experience this community, or at least not throughout the whole campground. There were people who came to eat that knew no one else living there. This is surprising when people literally live four feet from each other, but that’s why I wanted to do this. Community within the campground, community with the campground, and community outside of the campground. 

There was a moment, when the band was playing, people were milling around, and game were being played by all sorts of people that I thought “This is exactly what I imagined.” That is a good feeling. Taking an idea that has been germinating for a while and letting it come to fruition through people you’ve met and situations you find yourself in and it being successful? That’s the best. One elderly man told a volunteer between bingo calls that this was the most fun that they had had in a long while. 

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