I am not as out-going, open-minded, and friendly as I thought. And maybe even others have been fooled. In reality I am shy, insecure and critical. This isn't really news to me.
We lived in an apartment/condo for the first 3 years of our marriage. It's so easy not to get to know your neighbors in this kind of setting. I mean-you'd really have to go out of your way because no one is out in their yard or anything like that. And that worked for me. Unfortunately. In August we moved into a house with a great yard on a quiet street. We began to dream about spending afternoons in our yard and maybe even getting to know our neighbors. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and very little time doing it. I'm scared.
We quickly met Marion, our 69 year old neighbor to our left, after we moved in. He's out walking his dog, driving his granddaughters to school, and cruising in his cool vintage truck. He mentioned coming over to meet his wife, Sue, who doesn't get out. Sure, we'll be right on that. The older man across the street scowls and scares me. He has a cat and leaves early on Saturday mornings. There is a couple, her name is Catherine, that lives in the cul-de-sac with a dog. She introduced herself the first week. Then there is an assortment of other randoms that live on our block.
I felt compelled to pursue these folks, but I didn't know how. I kept thinking about how Jesus tells his disciples to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." How was I loving my own neighbors? I wasn't.
Recently, though, we did something. I baked up some of my new bread and we made a plan to visit some of our neighbors. Plus, having Charis seemed like an easy excuse to meet people. We first went to Bill's, the scary scowling man across the street. Don't worry, he was harmless. Not the nicest man in the world, and he seemed a little thrown-off by our visit. Oh, we will be back Bill, don't you worry. Then we headed to Marion's to visit his wife. I must admit I was a little nervous...would the house smell like old people and would she be bound to a bed with sores all over her? Relax. Sue was just the sweetest lady we'd ever met. She was loving Charis too, even gave her 20 bucks. And kept referring to her and Marion as mawmaw and pawpaw. Hilarious. Now we want to give these older folks our numbers just in case they need something. That's what it's about, right?
Wait! There's one more. We were headed down the street on a walk to Ben & Jerry's when Adam spots this older woman struggling to get groceries from her car to her house. "Should I help her?" he says to me. "Uh, I don't know" and a little peeved b/c I want my ice cream. He asks again. That man has a great heart. He calls out to the woman and offers to help her. She is "blessing his heart" left and right. She, Jackie, tells us she broke her ankle in September and is still recovering. She is smitten with Charis and proceeds to tell us how she's lived in her house for 56 years, her husband died 20 years ago and she's lived alone since, he also had 5 heart attacks and died at 55, how this neighborhood was near where the Grahams lived and so on. I was soaking up her southern drawl and horse voice as she gushed over our baby. She invited us back anytime we see her car in the driveway. I'm going to bake up some bread this week and go for a visit.
I must admit it has felt so good to love on these older folks and allow them to love on our baby girl. I realize it's not about a visit here and there, but building a relationship with them and serving them and being available to them and loving them as God commands. I'm constantly being humbled as my thinking tends to be about how I can bless these people, but I realize God is working on me, not them.