When my husband and I built our house 4 years ago, we had big dreams for ourselves, our growing family, and our brand new neighborhood. We were eager to make this new house our home. We were hopeful that we’d find friends inside the homes around us.
Then, life happened. It didn’t help that, as the resident introvert, I spent most of my hours inside the house or in my own yard. The neighborhood also went on a building hiatus thanks to the economy. We still have empty lots on either side of us with nothing behind us but a big open field.
It is lovely, yet lonely.
We’ve been friendly enough to those around us. We smile, make idle chit-chat, wave as we drive by. I’ve written down names and tried to remember faces.
Our nearest next door neighbors are friendly and helpful, but we only interact with them in passing or when someone needs help moving heavy furniture.
Around the time my youngest was born, we noticed that the family never brought in their garbage cans after pick up day. My husband and I chuckled about it a few times. How hard is it to wheel the cans back up the driveway, especially with four adults (a retired couple and their two college-age children) living there?
Perhaps it was a battle of wills. Maybe it was one person’s job and he or she wasn’t doing it. This went on for months- our curious guessing and the garbage cans being left at the curb for days on end.
When my daughter was three months old, I saw my neighbor getting out of her van. Something told me to go over to say hi and show her my baby girl. She was shocked! She didn’t realize we were even expecting! And then she delivered some shocking news of her own.
Her husband had died. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, fought hard, but lost his battle quickly around the time my little girl was born.
I was devastated and so very sad for her. What’s more, I was sad that we both experienced major life-changing events, and neither of us knew or reached out to the other.
As we brought life into the world, she had to say goodbye. As we rejoiced, she grieved. Would it have killed us to walk the garbage cans back to the garage for them? Or check in to see if everything was alright?
It used to frustrate me that I didn’t live in a neighborhood where I felt comfortable borrowing sugar or asking someone to grab our mail. It irritated me that my neighbors flew down the road and darted inside before I could even offer a wave. It bothered me that I didn’t really know anyone who lived near me.
And then it hit me. It takes a good neighbor to know one. I am just as guilty of driving down the road in haste, of pulling in to my garage and disappearing, and of being friendly enough, but not hospitable.
The chaos of life makes it easy to neglect the needs of those in our own backyard, but I realized it was time to stop being selfish. I still spend a great deal of time inside my house and in my own backyard, but I’ve also reached out to many of my neighbors in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed about before. I’ve been out to lunch with a neighbor down the street. I’ve looked after another neighbor’s pets while she went on a trip. I’ve even volunteered to help plan a street-wide cookout this summer.
Whether you live in a neighborhood like mine, in an apartment complex, or in the country with no neighbors at all, God calls us to love and serve others. Think of someone who lives (or works) nearby. Do something kind for that person today.
Copyright 2013 Leanne Willen