Thursday, October 9, 2008


This week Kodiak voted down a new school because it would entail an increase in property taxes. Housing is already expensive here. As one young couple said to me, "We can't afford a house now so why would I vote to make it more expensive?" We don't have a huge tax burden here like say someone from New York does (where I am from) which leads the US in tax burdens. But, lots of other things are much more expensive here than New York.

From Kodiak, this week, we could see the continuing market meltdown. No one seems to know what to do. It has put a scare into a lot of people. Some are pulling their money out of the market. Some see a conspiracy by the government to take control of our financial institutions. Some see plain old fashioned greed coming home to roost. But, when the average person watches his or her retirement lose 30% to 40% of its value from just one year ago, it is cause for concern and considering alternative plans.

I remembered this week when we lived in Philadelphia in the early 80s. We were part of a Christian community. Most of us owned our own homes. They were in a part of the city where housing was very cheap and we bought a row house that needed a lot of work. People helped each other out working on their homes. We bought food cooperatively. We shared cars so not every family needed one. We met for Bible study during the week and worship on Sunday in a rented space at a community center. We worked together on mission projects like making sure a nearby apartment building had heat for it's elderly residents. It was located right down the street from where our church met and the first time I visited one of the elderly tenants there was a thick block of ice which had formed on her window sill. She sat in a chair covered in blankets. We managed to draw attention to the problem and it was fixed.

It was not perfect. No community is. We always had personal issues to sort out. But I wonder if this financial crisis - if it is long lasting - will make alternative communities like that one more attractive. Most of us are used to very independent living. We are used to having plenty of choices and options moment by moment. We don't like to have someone or something "cramp our lifestyle". Most of us were looking forward to enjoying our retirement doing what we always thought we wanted to do, whatever that is.

Soaring energy prices which impact the cost of just about everything else have taken more of each paycheck. Now our future paychecks which we have been saving for are dwindling daily. Seems like we need a plan.

Kodiak is not Philadelphia but some of the principles translate pretty well. We could have a potluck and Bible study once a week. We could buy staples in bulk and break them down to share with each family unit every month. We could share fish during the summer months. We could have a storage shed filled with a variety of tools that members could borrow when needed and return. We could have a church vehicle that was available to be loaned out in emergencies. Shared housing is another area we might explore. The parsonage, for instance, could be made into two living units and rented to members. We might acquire other property or use an area of the church building for short term shelter.

This may just be some thinking out loud on my part. It would not be easy to make some of these changes. But some people are already hurting. If the financial downturn is long lasting, more people will be soon. As I read the Bible, we are a dependent people, on God; and an interdependent people, on each other. I don't read much about independence. Do you?

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