In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share something for which I am deeply grateful—my neighbors. They have shown us extraordinary kindness in the four years we’ve shared a street with them. Their friendship has taught me a great deal of what it actually means to be a “good neighbor.” Good neighbors seem rare these days. Perhaps we get so busy with the “neighbors” in our workplace and household that we neglect the actual neighbors that live in the house next door. Or maybe we prefer to shut up in the house after an exhausting work day. Or sometimes we fear coming across as creepy or awkward, so we don’t even try to get to know the people God strategically placed on our street.
But not my neighbors—the ones across the street, the ones across the yard, the ones twenty houses down and many in between—they welcome and reach out. They are available by yard or by phone. They pursue friendship and give from generosity. These are the exceptional neighbors of my little community, and I want to share the lessons they’ve taught me, so maybe you too can have the courage to “love your [actual] neighbor as yourself” because love for God constrains us to love those for whom He died (Matthew 12:30-31).
“Which rock is bigger?” My neighbor sits on her front porch and holds two rocks up for my two and three year old to examine. After some joint deliberation, she runs inside for a scale.
We have present neighbors. In a neighborhood setting, being present often translates to being outside. Many take walks and ride bikes. Others play in the yard or driveway and invite our children to join their games. Many neighbors have lawn or porch chairs at the ready for us to sit and chat. As we’ve walked around the neighborhood, various folks have invited us to blow bubbles, enjoy a Popsicle, draw with chalk, shoot hoops or munch on home-grown blackberries (my kids go crazy for her blackberries). Our green-thumb neighbor always has a job for my toddlers whether it’s pulling weeds, nibbling on asparagus or spreading rocks. It can be hard to knock on a stranger’s door, but it’s not hard to walk across the lawn to chat with a neighbor pulling weeds. Be present, be out, be a good neighbor.
“We haven’t seen you guys in a while. Can we bring pizza over on Friday night?”
We have interested neighbors. When we moved in our neighbors asked for our phone numbers—it’s a very quick way to break down the “fence.” Since then neighbors have called or texted to let us know our garage door was open, to report a suspicious looking truck (which turned out to be my husband), to invite us over for dinner, and to offer to take out our forgotten trash. Our neighbors have learned our special days. Our neighborhood “grandparents” always bring over a gift for all the kids’ birthdays as well as goodies for the various holidays—they care. Our neighbors have taken the time to know us and help us. Various neighbors have babysat, collected our mail, lent us tools and equipment, and drove my husband to the mechanic shop and back. One neighbor gifted us with their removable wrought-iron fencing, so we could contain our littles in the backyard. Be interested, be intentional, be a good neighbor.
“My grandsons have outgrown the high-chair and several toys. Could you use them?”
We have giving neighbors. Our neighbors have been creative and lavish with their generosity. Several neighbors have brought over meals during childbirth recovery and family illness. Countless neighbors have gifted us with lightly-used equipment for our children. We’ve been given everything from bikes and books to children’s shoes and tableware. Six of our neighbors support my husband’s lawn care business by utilizing his services. These neighbors give not only of their resources but also of their time. One gentleman kindly ran over milk for bottles one afternoon when I opened the fridge to find it empty. One lady occasionally sends her middle school boy and girl over to help us with the kids for the evening. Two different neighbors have come over in the wee hours to watch our sleeping children during emergencies. Our “grandparents” across the street babysat our kids, so we could Christmas shop. Our neighbors perceive each other’s needs and offer help. They kindly and thoughtfully give of their resources, time and energy. Be giving, be perceptive, be a good neighbor.
Our neighborhood has been a beautiful gift of care and community. This is a gift you have the ability to give as well. If you don’t really know your neighbors, maybe take an idea from one of mine. Even more blessed than community is the opportunity to share Christ and His life-giving gift of the Gospel. So be bold. Be creative. Bake a plate of cookies, cross the lawn or knock on the door and introduce yourself.