So, we’re pretty terrible at chores.
And by “we,” I mean mostly me. Anyone who’s seen my room or my car knows that my cleanliness threshold is quite low. Shockingly low. So low, in fact, that my boyfriend affectionately refers to me as the “germ bag.”
Cleanliness is not one of my gifts. Which seems to be a problem since I’m the Abbess (or to put it with a less Catholic twist, “Program Director”) of our intentional community. That means part of my job is making sure that the house is running smoothly and those mundane little things, like chores, are being taken care of.
Unfortunately, my chore system left something to be desired. (Apparently, it’s not okay to normal humans for the kitchen to get cleaned just once a week.) But I am the leader, so I forced myself to re-evaluate the chore chart, trying to anticipate and solve all the problems. Because leaders solve all the problems by themselves.
Living in intentional community kills that sort of self-reliant, individualistic, hero leadership bubble real quick. The fact of the matter is that every single person in our house is better at chores and chore charts than I am. But this leadership thing, particularly in an intentional community, is a tricky beast.
I have this insane notion that “success” means a conflict-free house that runs effortlessly and efficiently. Only then will I be a satisfactory leader. But that’s impossible due to the fact that we are five humans. I’m fairly certain that effortless, efficient and conflict-free will never be words used to describe our project. Perhaps this in and of itself is a mark of a successful intentional community?
Here is where I think the language of hospitality is useful. Leadership, in this instance, isn’t so much about micro-managing the details of our house, but creating a space of hospitality for others’ gifts.
Erin, who took over the chore chart, basically embodies what Marilynne Robinson says in When I Was A Child I Read Books; “At a certain level housekeeping is a regime of small kindnesses, which, taken together, make the world salubrious, savory and warm. I think the acts of comfort offered and received within a household as precisely sacramental.”
She’s gifted in hospitality, in the warmth of our housekeeping regime. She understands it’s importance for our own hospitality and comfort together. She’s better at this than I am. And my role as a leader in this instance was to recognize that even something as seemingly mundane as the chore chart could be a space for Erin use the gifts of hospitality that God gave her.
Leadership that draws its form from Scripture can’t forget 1 Corinthians 12. Luckily, intentional community provides a very quick education in the ethics of community. One person, alone, cannot do the work of the entire body. So leadership, in this sense, is just as much recognizing what you cannot do. It is training yourself to pay attention to the gifts of those around you. It’s connecting people to spaces of empowerment. It’s being hospitable to others’ gifts. And, sometimes, it’s just getting out of someone else’s way.