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Lessons From the Mulch Pile – How to Save Money and Build Community Along the Way

Have you ever walked through your neighborhood on a warm day and looked inside other people’s garages? Don’t the contents look familiar? Don’t they look remarkably similar to the contents of your own garage? I’m not suggesting that we all start forming communes, but couldn’t we do a better job of sharing?

On a memorable out of town trip, I had dinner at the home of some new friends. In their yard stood a pile of mulch. A big pile of mulch. It turns out they had gone in on the purchase with their neighbors. In part, in was a money-saving idea since they split the cost of delivery. But it was also an opportunity to build relationships—“an opportunity for us to meet at the fence” is how they put it.

I love that, and it’s prompted me to think more proactively about sharing with our neighbors.

When I decided to aerate our lawn last spring, my first thought was to just rent the machine and do the work. But then I decided to ask a neighbor if he wanted to go in on it with me, which he did and he seemed to appreciate. It saved us both some money, and it helped us connect on a different level.

Another time, one of our kids got a ball stuck in our gutter. I don’t own a ladder tall enough to reach that high, and for several minutes I entertained the thought of driving to the store to buy one. Then I thought, “That’s crazy. I’m sure a neighbor has one.”

Sure enough, the first one I called had one and was more than happy to let me use it. A few months later, I was really pleased that he felt comfortable calling me to ask for help getting an unusually wide Christmas tree out of his home. Our openness to helping each other has saved both of us some time and money, but more importantly it’s opened up lines of communication and is fostering a nice friendship.

What if we all started looking for more opportunities to “meet at the fence?” Instead of every family buying its own swing set or snow blower, what if several families went in on such purchases together? Instead of every gardener on the block renting their own rototiller to work on their vegetable patch, what if we rented one together for a day and shared it?  We’d all save a little money and we’d build community along the way.

I’m not sure the apostle Paul had all of these examples in mind, but it reminds me of his teaching:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4

What are some examples of how you’ve shared with neighbors and built community in the process? Or, is there something you’re now thinking of buying that you could consider buying with a neighbor?

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2 Responses to Lessons From the Mulch Pile – How to Save Money and Build Community Along the Way

  1. John Fuhler January 17, 2017 at 11:47 PM #

    Matt,
    I’ve learned that many in America can be financially rich but socially poor.
    In El Salvador and I suspect in other developing countries, they have a richness that we have lost. We move around a lot, it makes it hard to maintain relationships. Something the financially poor don’t have that same trouble with.

    • Matt Bell January 18, 2017 at 9:43 AM #

      That’s a great point, John. There’s something very satisfying about having a good relationship with your neighbors. Busyness — and, as you said, moving frequently — can hinder that.

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