The Common Good

Growing Where We're Planted

To make a difference for good in this world a person has to have a sense of place. But few of us have such a sense. We are a people on the move. We change jobs and we move to different cities as our jobs demand. We transport ourselves from house to house as our incomes change so that one out of five families in the U.S. moves in any given year, leaving most of us with little sense of rootedness.

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We proudly declare that our children have learned the skills of gaining immediate acceptance in new social settings, but we are reluctant to admit that their new acquaintances fail to offer them the gift of lifelong friendships. In reality, they are afraid of any deep and abiding friendships because the mobility of their families causes hurt when separations occur.

When G. K. Chesterton was asked by The Times of London, "What's wrong with the world?" He answered, "I am."

Each of us could possibly give the same answer because one cannot change his or her world for good if one has no sense of belonging to one place. That is what is wrong with most of us. Seldom do any of us stay in one place long enough to connect with what is happening in any one neighborhood or village. Moving is a big deal, even though we are prone to ignore its ability to negate the lasting impact that can be made if one stays put.

The Bible lauds being "planted like a tree, by the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit in due season," but most of us have chosen instead to be like the rootless tumbleweed, blown to and fro by the wind.

One of my former students, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, has written a new book, titled The Wisdom of Stability, in which he chronicles the blessings to a neighborhood and to self that are gained by staying put in once place. He makes the case for a sense of calling that may seem strange to those of us who are constantly on the go. Yet, the reader is likely to be convinced that the God that a restless world needs can best be found in a place called "Holy Ground." Any ground can be made holy as a person chooses to do God's will in the place where he or she is planted. For those of us who want to bring love and justice to bear in our world, this book is an instruction manual because it argues that such things usually happen when people stay put.

To listen to Jonathan talk about his new book, you can click here.

Tony Campolo is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University.

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