When Mike 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.
And then, you know, 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. Or that the neighborhood 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 living 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 have always been friendly and helpful, but our interactions have always been limited.
Around the time Caroline was born, we noticed that the family never brought in their garbage cans after pick up day. Mike 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, we thought. Maybe it was one person’s job and he/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 Caroline was three months old, I saw Janice getting out of her van. Something told me to go over to say hi and show her our new girl. She was shocked! She didn’t realize we were even expecting! And then she delivered some shocking news of her own.
Ed (her husband) had died. He was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of the year. He fought hard, but lost his battle quickly around the time Caroline 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 mere feet away, and neither of us knew or reached out to the other.
As we brought life into the world, they had to say goodbye. As we rejoiced, they 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 did not 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 a good neighbor. I am just as guilty of driving down the road in haste. Of pulling in to my garage and disappearing .Of being friendly enough, but not hospitable.
The chaos and busyness of life make it easy to neglect the needs of those in our own backyard. It’s time to stop being selfish. It’s time to open up our doors and offer ourselves to our neighbors. It’s time to check in on them and see how we might make their world brighter.
Is there an elderly person in your neighborhood who might want some company? Is there a new mom who needs a warm meal (or someone to fold laundry or do a load of dishes)? Is there a neighbor that you don’t really care for or don’t get along with? Could you muster a peace offering or at least a friendly wave? What about that young kid who knocked on your door and asked you to support her school fundraiser? Can’t you spare a small donation? Whatever it is, do something for a neighbor today.
Life happens when we love our neighbors.
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