When you live in a big city, the best way to be a “good neighbor” is to be polite but keep your distance. Don’t make too much noise and don’t ask too many questions.

For Dr. Ryan Hanning and his family of 11, the opposite couldn’t have been truer when they moved from Phoenix to their new homestead in Tennessee. Before they even had a chance to finish emptying the truck, the neighborhood had stopped by to welcome them and offer a hand.

“It’s an environment in which to develop virtue much easier because it becomes more binary. You either are willing to enter into the things that are necessary to be a member of the community … or you’re not. You learn really quickly what it means to be a good neighbor, what it means to be properly participating in these relationships.”

After relocating from the big city to the great outdoors, the Hanning family has been experiencing a slow transformation. Gone are the days of convenience and fast-paced busyness. Even though homesteading comes with its own set of anxieties and challenges, the family has found that building a homestead draws the spirit and the eyes upward towards the One who is really in control.

Cultivating Vital Relationships

Inspired by the motto, “Veritas de Terra,” Dr. Hanning’s research and writing have taken him deep into the three relationships that we are each called to cultivate: our relationship with God, each other, and the land.  

His upcoming book, “The WillPower Advantage: Building Habits for Lasting Happiness,” cowritten with Tom Peterson and coming out this fall, focuses on how we can shape our will through habit-building. The difficult heart-work that we need to do in order to have “goodwill to all men” happens in the margins of life — it’s the everyday moments that are the small whispers that call us to action and heroism. 

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