This blog is written by Penny Hall, one of the team of street connectors in Firs, Bromford and Hodge Hill. The reflection was originally written for Hodge Hill Church.
Here is a story about a little plum tree… A man in our neighbourhood had an idea that if lots of people planted fruit trees in their front gardens or on common land then people who didn’t have fruit trees or even gardens would be able to enjoy free fruit. He spoke to other people in the community who also thought it was a good idea and it began to build momentum. He was advised to speak a local Pie event. Pie events are a place where people share what they are passionate about, an idea for something they’d like to do, or about a project they would like to pursue. As a community we share a pie meal, listen to the passions and ideas of our neighbours, ask helpful questions, provide offers of help and assistance, and then vote whether an idea should be given some funding. The idea was heard and loved. He was awarded a small grant which he used to buy lots of compost and small fruit trees and he set about planting them all over the community.
I am one of many people who now have a little fruit tree growing in their front garden. Mine is a dwarf Victoria plum tree. Some people said it was not a good idea to plant fruit trees in front gardens as they might be damaged by passers-by and the fruits would be taken, leaving nothing for the owners. However, the point is that we actively want others to share the fruit. My hope is that my little plum tree will bear fruit next year and lots of children on their way to and from school will enjoy its fruits. In the Bible, the fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I believe they can be experienced in three ways. Firstly, by ourselves as individuals; we can love ourselves, be at peace with ourselves and so on. We can receive fruits from others by their acts of kindness, generosity etc. Lastly, we can share the fruits with others by our own acts.
While street connecting in Hodge Hill, I have noticed that, where there is one person sharing the fruits of the Spirit, being kind, generous and friendly, there are several others doing the same. For instance where someone has started to pick up litter around their road, other neighbours will join them until there is a regular team of litter pickers. Other neighbours have started to look after the communal garden, planting new plants, adding garden decorations, weeding, and others have joined in. It is as though there is something about caring that is catching. When I moved in to my new road last year, there was already a group of friendly, generous neighbours who frequently leave gifts of food, chocolate, books for my grandchildren and other delights on my doorstep and generally make me feel welcomed into the neighbourhood.
I sometimes ask myself ‘who do we share these good fruits with?’. It is very easy to share fruits with family, friends and kind neighbours, perhaps because it tends to be a two-way process; you do a kindness for a friend and when able, they will return with a kindness for you. But sometimes I wonder if we can be at risk of becoming a bit restricted in who we share our fruits with. We might hand out our fruits to special friends but not notice those on the edges. Perhaps not all neighbours are as blessed as I have been. Perhaps those who do not appear so outgoing, friendly or generous themselves are not used to receiving good fruits from others.
As Community is for everyone, let’s share those fruits with everyone. Let’s notice and rejoice in the sharing of the fruits in our neighbourhood and learn from those examples. But also, let’s notice the newcomer, the stranger, the reserved person, the side-lined, and make sure they have the best of God’s fruits as well. Let’s be kind and generous with the stranger, patient with the slow person in front of us in the queue and gentle with those we disagree with. Let’s have courage like the man who planted the fruit trees. Let’s be the ones to take a risk and be first to reach out. Let’s walk the way God intends for us and the seeds of new trees will be planted as we go. Then there will be plenty of good fruit for everyone.
Penny Hall August 2020