Every now and then a news story comes along that shocks and unsettles us.

Such is the story of Natalie Wood, the pensioner who would have been 87 this year … except for the fact that she died 8 years ago and her skeleton wasn’t discovered in her rundown, forlorn looking house until just the other day.

Not the local council to which she owed rates, nor the utility company who cut off her power, nor the policeman who knocked on her door a few years ago, nor her neighbours, friends or family managed to figure out that she was … well, dead.

So her body decomposed on the floor of her terrace house, just a few hundred metres from Sydney’s busy Central Station, until just the skeleton remained.

So … why do we find this so disturbing?

Because we wonder how a person can be so isolated and so alone, that nobody notices her death for eight years. One day after all, that could be us!!

But should we really be that surprised?

In my fair city of Sydney, fully one third of all households are single person households. We live in a society where we often don’t have time to know our neighbours’ names, let alone know anything of their lives. The kids no longer play together down the street after school. The mothers no longer gather around the greengrocer’s truck twice each week (as they did when I was a child).

In the last house that we lived in, we had 12 foot high double brick fences between our backyard and our neighbours’.

It turns out that community isn’t something that just happens anymore. It’s something we need to choose to become.

Proximity no longer guarantees community, because our culture has gone through a tectonic shift in my lifetime, from a collective to an individual mindset.

In fact, you can even go along to a church week after week for over a year and still not have anyone invite you out for a coffee (trust me, I know!)

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

Meeting together, having meals together, sharing our lives together … it doesn’t just happen. It takes time. It takes effort. And often times, it takes forgiveness. We Christians are sometimes so busy making a difference for God out there somewhere, overseas, in another place … that we forget that community starts right here at home.

With our neighbours. Our extended family. The person in the next pew who goes home alone each Sunday.

So … who are you and I going to have over for a BBQ or invite out for a coffee this weekend?

Because if I don’t do it … if you don’t do it, then there’s every chance that someone we know will fall between the cracks. There’s every chance that someone we know … will be left to rot.