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Myth of Self-Reliance
September 19, 2017

It can never be said that Adele Gaboury's neighbours were less than responsible.[1] When her front lawn grew hip-high, they had a local boy mow it down. When her pipes froze and burst, they had the water turned off. When the mail spilled out the front door, they called the police. The only thing they didn't do was check to see if she was alive. She wasn't.  Police finally climbed her crumbling brick stoop, broke in the side door of her little blue house, and found what they believe to be the 73-year-old woman's skeletal remains, where they had lain, perhaps for as long as four years.

If we were going to be honest, we would have to admit that this might have happened in our neighbourhoods as well.  After all, it is not polite to meddle in your neighbours lives.  We pride ourselves with our self-reliance and independence.  Except, sooner or later we do need others.  The myth of self-reliance does not hold true.  And so the followers of Jesus are called to bust the self-reliance myth and care for those who need help, being generous neighbours.  In Jesus’ classic story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the most neighbourly man was the one who busted the self-reliance myth and gave his assistance to the robbery victim, looking after his wounds and providing shelter.

The early church followed the example of Jesus.  It is written of them, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”  Acts 4:32

The Europeans who came to settle North America found it vast and unexplored.[2] In the early days the government gave away quarter sections of land to anyone who would homestead, in order to encourage settlement. People flocked west from crowded cities and villages to have their own land at last. Before they could farm the land they had chosen, their first job was to build a sod hut to live in, and most families built them right smack-dab in the middle of their quarter section. The reason was obvious. People who had never owned land before had a new sense of pride and ownership. They wanted to feel that everything they saw belonged to them.

But that custom changed quickly. This chosen isolation did strange things to people. Occasionally, photographers went out to record life on the frontier and returned with photographs of weird men, wild-eyed women, and haunted-looking children. Before long most of these families learned to move their houses to one corner of their property to live in proximity with three other families who also lived on the corners of their property. Four families living together, sharing life and death, joy and sorrow, abundance and want, had a good chance of making it.

What are some of the strange things that isolation and self-reliance does to people today?  How would we benefit from engaging one another and caring for one another?  Is it possible that we are not as self-reliant as we would like to think?




[1] Boston Globe (10-27-93); appeared in: Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church (Zondervan, 2001); submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Ken

[2] Chuck Swindoll, Dropping Your Guard (Word Books, 1983), p. 23; quoting Bruce Larson, There's a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick; submitted by Darin Reimer, Victoria, British Columbia


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