I tried my best to smile when our neighbors recently told me that they were getting their house ready to sell. I forced myself to say all the right things you should say when someone has “exciting” news. It truly felt bittersweet. When I told Danielle, my wife, she responded that all she saw was the bitter not the sweet.
It is exciting news for our neighbors. Their family is growing and they need more space. Plus the market for our neighborhood is hot, so they should sell their home quickly and with a profit.
So why would it matter to me if they moved? They are just neighbors. Aren’t neighbors those people who you only wave at as you pull in or out of your driveway or put your trash out by the curb on trash pick-up days?
How many of us have lived by neighbors for several years, and when we see a “for sale” sign go up in the yard, we say to our spouse, “Hey honey, the neighbors just put their house up for sale.” “Really, which ones?” “Uh, you know the ones that live across the street. Please don’t ask me their name!”
Is that really a neighbor?
I guess because of the simplest definition of the word—someone who lives in close proximity—even if you can’t remember their name, you can call them a neighbor. But I want my “neighbors” to be more than someone who lives a few feet away.
I long for community. I want to not only know my neighbor’s name, I hope to do life together with those who live closest to me if possible.
I want to celebrate joyous occasions as well as support them through challenging ones. I desire to have neighbors that trust us as much as we trust them. I hope to have neighbors that feel comfortable enough to come over without a formal invite while still respecting healthy boundaries.
This means that my neighbors who choose to live life with us get to really know us. They learn what is important to us; what we believe; how we parent; what we struggle with; and what we enjoy.
I understand that not everyone wants this. For many they see their home as a refuge that provides an escape from the world around them. This is especially true if your neighbors have a different worldview.
Even though we live in a typical middle-class, mostly white, suburb, not all of us have the same worldview. My neighbors across the street have a Jewish heritage. My neighbors on one side have made it clear that they have no interest in Christianity.
You know what? I am not only cool with that, I love it. As long as we show mutual respect, become friends, and care for one another, I want that kind of community.
My Christian friends, especially those I go to church with probably struggle some with that last comment. But it is important to note that I am not saying that I am turning away from my faith. Or, that we don’t see value or necessity in gathering with other believers. We need and want that.
I hear Christians talk about community. It’s almost a buzz-word in our context. But I think they usually refer to living in community with those whom we attend church. And, most of these people look and think like I do. Nothing wrong with that, except I don’t live next to any of them.
Finding that rhythm.
The more I understand community and neighboring, I think about the pace of our family’s life.
The fact is I only have so much margin—time with which to live life. More and more I choose to live life in a more natural rhythm, and that includes living life with those who live closest to me.
So does it matter to me that my neighbor is moving? Yes! They have become a true neighbor—our friends.
Thank you Keith and Kelly for being some of the best neighbors we could hope for. We miss you already!
What does “neighbor” mean to you?
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