Memories sometimes come like a soothing mist upon the soul. Other times they sweep you up and carry you to another time and place. And then there are moments when memories swamp and sink into the forefront of your mind so that you can't do anything else without reveling in the bayou. You can't help but tell their stories.
I find myself absolutely swamped this weekend with Peacehaven.
Maybe it has been the hints of spring teasing at my senses or the trove of pictures I discovered on my iPhone. Maybe these stories just need to be told.
I've got to tell them in any case. Chapters from "The Peacehaven Chronicles" will be coming at ya periodically until the bayou in my brain says otherwise.
Peacehaven Community Farm is a special community just off I-40 between Greensboro and Burlington, NC.
Here is how they describe themselves:
"Peacehaven is a sustainable farm and affordable housing community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are not a place of worship, but a space which embraces and cherishes difference. We welcome people of all gifts, abilities, beliefs, backgrounds, and identities and consider all people crucial in our work of manifesting a more inclusive way of life. It is our sincere hope that all will feel safe, supported and respected here."
They have a beautiful farm and a house that holds four Core Members (CMs) and four Resident Assistants. CMs are full-time Peacehaven dwellers. RAs volunteer to accompany, lead, and learn from the community for two-year terms. They all make life there together, and it is beautiful, messy, and Real.
I got to be their chaplain this past summer. They changed my life.
A Peacehaven Chronicle
- chapter 1 -
As soon as I pulled into the Peacehaven driveway on my first official day as the summer chaplain I realized that I had left my packed lunch at home. I have hypoglycemic anemia, so forgetting my lunch is no small matter. Furthermore, I was anxious about forgetting anything around my new “coworkers,” or having to ask for a lunch break off the farm.
I remember that the house rhythm was unusually quiet that morning. Sometime around 11:30 a.m. I heard Molly, one of our Core Members, humming to herself in the kitchen as she pulled out an enormous cooking pot and two boxes of Annie’s Shells & Cheese.
My first instinct was to go help her. To be completely honest, I wanted to make sure the kitchen items she was using were clean enough for cooking. How prejudiced I can be! How nervous and mistrusting! The Spirit might as well have caught me by the elbow, because just as soon as I had decided to get up and take over Molly’s culinary mission, I was pulled back down into my seat.
From my perch in the den I took in Molly’s confident posture and the sure way in which she ran water into the cookpot and fired up the stovetop. She was completely in her element. She was happy. Eventually I did walk into the kitchen, but it was not to judge her, check up on her, or even to help her. I walked in to simply be with her.
Molly clucked at me, smiled proudly as she showed me her work. “Looks yummy!” I said.
“Ya want some? Mac-n-cheese? I got enough to share.”
Molly met my need.
This was the moment in which my place in this community became real.
I moved from being one who serves to one who lives with, one who accompanies.
Community means being willing to put the needs of others before one’s own, of course. It also means being willing to admit your need for the other and to receive her help.
Or a warm bowl of mac-n-cheese.