There is a spiritual side to a community that isn’t confined to churches, a spirituality that we can practice in our every day lives. I just learned about it in a sermon I heard last week. The minister gave practical advice about enriching relationships that by extension would enrich the community spirit of Forest Park.

The steps he mentioned were so simple–like practice hospitality. Before the election, I was invited to a neighbor’s home to listen to one of the candidates. We saw a wide range of neighbors; veteran Forest Parkers and newcomers we would otherwise never meet. The cookies were good, too.

The minister spoke of another way to practice hospitality: getting together with friends on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. We don’t need an excuse to get together, or an agenda to discuss. My wife and I just know that when we share a monthly meal with our Forest Park friends, the conversation will be lively and meaningful.

The minister’s next point seemed ridiculously simple: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” He used a bassinet and hospital bed for props.

Many of us hate visiting people in the hospital but when we force ourselves, it can rally the spirits of the patient lying there. As for wakes and funerals, I don’t know anyone who likes attending them. We’re so worried about saying the right words when all we really have to do is show up.

It’s weird but right after hearing this sermon, I showed up at a stranger’s house to deliver a subpoena. The woman who answered the door seemed upset. Then she proceeded to pour out her soul about the loss of her mother. We had a very touching conversation in her doorway. The night before in Forest Park, I had been rejoicing with a niece over her new baby, so I had this Bible verse covered.

As the minister said, the key to these practical spiritual exercises is faith. The neighbor who hosted the candidate’s coffee had to believe people would show up. When we visit the sick, or drive to the funeral home, we have to have faith that we’ll make someone feel better.

The minister’s next point was for us to associate with people who perform menial jobs. Too often, we ignore landscapers, car wash guys and bus boys. We may even feel superior to them. Fortunately, my parents pounded it into us that we weren’t better than anyone else. In fact, when my brother, a college professor, attended conferences, he hung out with the janitors and waiters.

Here’s one final way to put spirituality into action: when we have disagreements, we have to bravely enter the “tunnel of chaos” to air our differences. Now that the election is over, this step will be especially important for bringing a spiritual healing to Forest Park.