Everything That Remains by The Minimalists is a story about the transformation from the pursuit of achievement and material success to a life of intention and personal fulfillment. I have enjoyed reading it and would recommend it, if you are interested in this sort of thing. However, there was one principle of of minimalism presented in this book sit well with me: intentional relationships.
The author describes how in our age of technology we are no longer bound to make friends based on proximity and convenience. While I agree that one can make incredibly meaningful relationships through the internet, I want to advocate for those relationships made close to home and here’s why: proximity matters. If relationships were only about shared interests and values, it would make sense to focus only people with which you have a lot in common. But what about your elderly neighborhood that needs help getting her trash cans out to the curb after her hip surgery? What about the kid next door that is shooting hoops in his driveway alone and would appreciate your company?
I think it makes sense to be intentional about your time and energy. It it also advisable to not hang on to relationships that are toxic or abusive. However, not every relationship is going to be mutually fulfilling or based on commonality. Relationships based on proximity and convenience are important too. Here are some examples of reasons why I value people who are physically close to me even if we aren’t close in other ways:
- I needed someone to watch my 2-year old during my prenatal doctor appointments and a neighbor helped me.
- An older woman in my bible study needed a ride to church so I picked her up and she took me out to lunch.
- I ran out of sugar and sent a kid over to the neighbor’s house to borrow some.
- A young couple moved in across the street and the movers were delayed bringing their stuff. I gave them a couch and they had my family over for a housewarming party.
- Someone in our church had a surgery so we brought a meal to the family.
- A family in the process of moving gave us all the movies their kids no longer watched. We now have an extensive SpongeBob Squarepants collection that no one in this house will ever grow out of.
My point is this: Minimalism is great for stuff, not people. While my emotionally closest, bestest friends may be miles away from me, I still need the people who live in my town, whether we have things in common or not. The people who are physically close to you are important. It might be worth the effort to FIND some commonality rather than focusing all your attention on people miles away from you that can’t bring you soup when you have a flu.