This past weekend some friends and I went camping at Tannehill State Park. I love camping. My parents took us kids a lot growing up. We went to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, the hill country of Texas, the gulf coast, and everywhere in between. As a boy the lure was simply being outside all day and night, playing in the creeks, cooking over a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and doing it all with my family. While I still love many of those things for the same reasons I did back then, my perspective has changed.
Last year I had a conversation with my Kenyan friend, Tony, that I won't forget. It was one of those conversations that helps define you and the culture you live in. I asked Tony what were the biggest differences he had noticed about the US and Kenya. He said the most noticeable difference he had observed was the independence and isolation of Americans from each other. He talked about how he never sees people walking down the street or hardly outdoors together at all. Now, his observations did take place in the dead of summer that is much hotter than a summer in Kenya, but he had a point. He said that in Kenya there is a phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child" and here in America even children in need are only the concern of their parents and a few aid programs.
Tony said that in the area that he grew up in "if there you were going to have a party you would invite everyone around, even if you didn't like them." We both laughed at that because we knew how alien that idea was here. He also said that in his community if a neighbor is without work, they come and eat with your family; even if you had very little, you are grateful to be able to share.
We discussed how right he was about the differences for over an hour. I think he was more right than he even knew. I know that we are talking about the two extreme ends of a spectrum, but we are so isolated. There must be a better middle ground. Our culture irrationally craves seclusion, property with no neighbors in sight, fences, headphones, iPhone games, and private country clubs. We can't wait to get home after work, turn the TV on, and shut the world out. We even isolate ourselves from our own families.
I think that I love camping now because camping is the anthesis of this. When you venture into the woods with friends and family, you leave all of your tools of isolation at home and all that's left is a community people working together to survive with the primary purpose of enjoying each other and the rest of creation. I have put up so many walls in my life. Walls that keep other people out, walls that keep nature out, and walls that keep me imprisoned from the community that the Father wants me to experience. I want my life to look more like one of my brothers in the first church described in Acts 2. Giving to others as they have need and breaking bread in each others homes; these things are good for man. God teach me to love you more so I will love your people more.
All that to say, we had a great weekend and here are some photos of our time in the Alabama woods.