There are moments when you feel the needle moving, when you feel the arch of the universe actually bending towards justice and love and shalom.— Sarah Bessey
It was a long day at work. I was coming home, and looking for the slightest encouragement of budding pink and white blossoms on the bare branches of lilacs and magnolias on my street (Spring still felt far away), but no luck. I turned the corner of our busy street, and just as I pulled up to my driveway, thinking about what I would make for dinner, my attention was immediately drawn upwards, by something moving.
Turned out, there was a man on my roof.
I looked again. Yup. Definitely a man on my roof. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the bright afternoon light, before he came into focus and I recognized him. It was my next door neighbour, walking slowly along the shingles with his back close to the upper windows, and then kneeling down. Turns out, he had climbed up there to lift up our cable which had fallen low to the ground, and to tie it back onto the little upstairs window post hook.
I have a fear of seeing my friends and family up on rooftops or anywhere high and what I deem to be dangerous, so I quickly stopped the car, left it standing there on some strange and awkward angle between the sidewalk and driveway, and jumped out.
“What are you doing? Are you sure you’re safe up there?” I called up to him.
“Oh yeah, no problem at all.” He had no worry in the world as he lowered his stomach to the shingles, reached out and tied the cable neatly to the corner of the house. “Maybe could you just hold the ladder while I climb back down in a minute?” he called back to me.
Yes, it was the least I could do.
The ladder leaned against his side of the house, where he had climbed up, and turned out to be his original invention: a very resourceful person, he finds discarded, forgotten, and ‘unloved’ items all over the neighbourhood while walking and biking miles each day, and loves them into something. On this day, he managed to build a ladder from scratch, since we didn’t have one tall enough, using two two-by-fours, and some metal racks suspended in between to form solid metal footholds. I’m used to baking from scratch, even knitting from “scratch,” but building ladders??
“You made this?” I asked. “How did you come up with this idea?”
“Oh yeah, it was easy. We needed a ladder, so I made one.” He shrugged it off, like he had made something as easy as a sandwich.
This same young man and another neighbour are planning to build wooden birdhouses next, with the wood they find on their travels around. I’m a bird lover (birds remind me of the present moment and how tiny I am in this universe, which humbles me). Together, we have found a couple of spots where they could be attached to our backyard fence. The same neighbours are helping us install our tiny ‘firefly’ solar lights. One of our same neighbours hand-built a beautiful pine railing for the front steps over the winter months.
I think about the roof and the cable being lifted back up. I think about the birdfeeders and the lights and the front step railing. I think about what family feels like, and this is it.
There are moments when you feel the needle moving, when you feel the arch of the universe actually bending towards justice and love and shalom. (Sarah Bessey)
These are the moments when I feel something different in the air, when my attention is peaked to look for what I cannot see, in the life I am used to knowing. When I feel the needle moving, to use Sarah Bessey’s wonderful worlds, towards better, and I know that things are being made right and moving towards shalom.
These are not just any neighbours, and this is not just any house.
We are all living in a duplex, with four bedrooms on each side. For some of my housemates and neighbours, life has been a difficult struggle, and this is the closest they have come in a long time to family living (and the biggest challenge they’ve faced to overcome their fears enough to take the chance on living with us). Living intentionally as community and family, we do our best to navigate being separate households, and yet to also create a space to help one another, depend on one another, and do life together. We aim towards better.
Some days are a struggle, but there are many days where love is shared like a spark of something pure and unexpected. Sometimes this means a movie together, sometimes dinner at the end of a long day, sometimes sharing a story of struggle, or finding a shared narrative in the world, and sometimes it means climbing on the rooftop for one another.
No one deserves to walk alone. Doing life together is the best way of moving towards justice and love. We don’t always do it well in our home, but it’s our intentional aim. Our best effort at being human and treating each other as human.
Who are you loving from the rooftops?
And who is loving you?