Living the paperboy dream

The paperboy dreams planted in the NES soil of my childhood came to fruit last week. A friend of mine in Circle of Hope is in a tough spot financially. Somehow, she fell in with a tribe of paper deliverers who drive the pre-dawn darkness of South Jersey delivering The Philadlephia Inquirer, New York Times, Daily News, Wall Street Journal etc. Her cell organized to help her get the job done more quickly each night so she can snag another hour of sleep before she hits her day job.  A cell is the basic unit of Circle of Hope. We meet in people’s homes, coffee shops and bars all over the region to live a real life of faith together and to include others in the tranformational community God keeps knitting together.

Each night for the past two weeks she has had a wing man or woman to be a temporary member of a very interesting club of early morning paper delivery people. One woman I met had been delivering papers every night/morning for 35 years. Another younger guy had taken my friend under his wing. He delivers three or four routes by 6 a.m. He could definitely make it to Sunday (another NES reference). If everything goes according to plan, a truck delivers freshly printed papers to a warehouse in Marlton by 2 a.m. the paperboys and girls bag them and hit the road. If you’re really good, you bag as you go, but that seems nigh impossible to me and my friend. On our night the delivery was late and there was an weekend insert in the Inquirer so bagging took a little longer. We were delivering papers in Audubon by 3:15 a.m.

You gotta aim for the mailbox–Fun being the church for real.

Because I am the way I am, I imposed some fun on the dawn. My friend was already much better at throwing papers from her driver’s seat. But some people on the route ask for special deliveries. They would like it on their porch, or just so on the top step of their stoop. You really must get out of the car to accommodate this requests, but I convinced my friend that we had to try to throw the paper to the porch, no matter how long the walk was. Pro-tip: Wall Street Journals and USA Todays are way too light to get any distance. Pro-Tip #2: If you lose papers in the bushes, you have to pay for them.

I had a lot of fun with my friend, who’s really more like a sister because she is part of my Circle of Hope family. Who else is going to go out in the middle of the night with you to deliver papers? This was not my friend’s idea. In fact, she objected, but her cell was already on the move. One of them made a spread sheet and sent it out to people who loved her. In less than 12 hours a dozen people had signed up. That’s real love. It’s like a 21st century version of the description of the first church in Jerusalem in Acts 2

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Cells are a real way to replicate this life, and you get to be a paperboy in the middle of the night and live your paperboy dreams. People need this extended family. They always have. Even before the screens came in to isolate us and virtualize our togetherness, humans needed a tribe. They needed an extended family system to be healthy, let alone world changing agents of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

Togetherness is a recent casualty

Cultures throughout history have consistently formed means for this type of togetherness. Even in the first century there were other groups, often religious, who took care of each other like the early Christians did. But our movement survived by the power of the Holy Spirit and today it’s expressed in the shared burden of a paper route for a cash strapped mom, and in many other ways. Other movements are passing away, ours is worth the sleep deprivation because it will last forever.

The counter narrative that we need to go it alone, the rise of the individual as a self contained responsible unit of society is a relatively new phenomenon. On the scale of human history, it was not too long ago that going it alone meant death. I’m sure even then, our selfishness threatened the selflessness necessary for community to thrive. The extreme nature of the sharing in Acts 2 is a testament to the special nature of their togetherness. Can you imagine liquidating your assets to feed the poor people in your cell? This togetherness was an essential part of their witness. It was not just the teaching of the apostles.

We’re doing Acts 2

Today, we are better positioned to help one another but I’m not ruling out selling my house when disaster strikes. My smaller act of radical togetherness organized by my friend’s cell is a worthy reenactment of the original Acts. It’s probably Acts Chapter (M-bar)(M-bar)(M-bar)DCLXIII at least! (BTW that’s Latin!) Cells destroy isolation and properly relocate our responsibility for everyone’s needs in the community and not the individual. Jumping through bushes and diving through jeep windows after my stray paperboy shots is how I celebrated that last week. Got any other stories about your cell?