Monday, February 25, 2013

Things my neighbors do better than I

This neighborhood has taught us a lot over the past two and a half years. This is my reflection on how my non-Christian, semi-Catholic, and Christian neighbors have given us so much wisdom by being themselves. About half our neighbors are pretty active in the local parish and the community really shines through in these 4 blocks. The woman who is almost single-handedly responsible for every summer party has past hurts from church people and sees no need in her life for Jesus right now. I feel very challenged by these people; it makes me think very hard about how my actions and words share Jesus, because the non-Christians seem to be much nicer people than I am.

1. Gather frequently, and informally.
This means following conversation through to last names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Send them to everyone. Let others know if I've had a rough week at work and need a wine night. Open my house, even if it's 'messy.' Come out to the driveway to talk, even if wearing pajamas and no make-up. Invite the neighbors from around the corner and two blocks over. Reserve the village 'block party wagon' four times a summer. Create a women's book club (really, wine night); rent the movie of the book from the library and text everyone to come over.

2. Spend visible time.
Walk the dog or the kids, and linger. At least slow down if you see anybody, to say 'Hi,' remember their name and ask one question. It often leads to a 15 minute conversation. Play in the front driveway, not the back yard, if you have a tall fence or corner lot. Have lunch picnics on the front lawn. Text two people if heading to the park to let the dog off the leash or blow off kids' energy; at least one will meet you there. Play outside if the temperature is above 20F.

3. Ask neighbors for help. And give it generously.
Borrow the table saw she was using last weekend. Write up a note with your week-long vacation dates and ask neighbors to keep an eye on the house. Shovel his driveway and leave the newspaper by the door. Drop off old kids clothes, old kids picnic tables, and out-grown anything. Let them know when I've been laid off or when my child has been sick. Email the neighbors before the realtor yard sign goes up; email the whole story again after it goes down. Ask for babysitter, handyman, realtor, and work/life balance recommendations; really listen and follow up on how it's going. Stop the car in the street to offer a ride. Let neighbors hold a fundraiser/gift card shower after my house burns down and host a party to celebrate moving into the rebuilt house.

4. Invite everyone.
Old small houses on the next block, newer large houses on the other block. The neighbor who has approximately 400 yard ornaments and wind chimes, the neighbor who hand seeds the lawn. The recluse whose car tires have sat flat in the driveway for a year, the new empty nester who loves talking with my kids. The single mom who works many hours keeping it together, the stay-at-home dad who is trying to build his own business. Everyone is invited, because any one person knows if they've been kept off the list and that feels awful. Go, even if it seems like I know no one.

Map of our neighborhood

Everything on this list has really happened in the past two and a half years to someone living here. Right now 5.6 miles span the distance to church, and this doesn't seem so bad to the average suburbanite. But there are a couple of mental barriers like an expressway and school districting; in any case, our present neighbors would be better served by two in-town churches. How we move into the next season will be so much richer because of our present neighbors, as we consolidate our family life to within 3 miles of our church. Who knows what our future neighbors will be like? I know how our family desires to be neighbors with Jesus living through us.

Romans 13:7-10

Give to everyone what you owe them:
If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. [Maybe we could insert a more active verb here: love actively seeks a neighbor's well-being].
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 

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