Learning the Art of Neighboring

October 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

In my travels to many places around the world there is something that I have learned, I have so much to learn; especially when it comes to hospitality, being a good neighbor and serving strangers.

When I was in Africa I had a friend spend hours taking me to the market to buy ingredients, walk me home and help me cook a meal that she wouldn’t stay to eat because she wanted me to have it all. In Croatia we had students drop their plans for the day to spend time with us and take us to one of their favorite beaches. At the time we had only known them for a few days. Another friend in Croatia drove us hours to her village; we ate with her mom and she drove us to one of the most spectacular national parks ever. In many cultures they go above and beyond with time and resources to care for a stranger. You don’t stay strangers for long. My travels and friends around the globe have taught me so much about God’s heart for true hospitality and serving your neighbor.

While staying in a hostel in Costa Rica last year this chalkboard below was hanging above the front desk. I loved it so much that I took a picture of it (and have been thinking about writing about it for a year now).

One of the things that our family values is loving and serving our neighbors. When you’re a good neighbor it helps to build a community, increases safety, and makes it better overall. We all long for connection, to be known, to know that the people around us are looking out for us. We all long for real, authentic community. This can happen in our neighborhoods if we all take some simple steps to be a good neighbor.

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These ideas above are awesome! The last suggestion I can’t read the last word entirely but the words learn and uncomfortable ring true. Sometimes taking the step to cross the street or the lawn to meet a new neighbor, maybe attend a block party, host an event, or love people who are different from you in so many ways is incredibly uncomfortable. It can stretch us and make us uneasy but it’s also so worth it. We have so much to learn from each other and offer to one another. Living life with our neighbors has brought our family so much joy.

Here’s a list of some things that we have done in our neighborhood in an attempt to love our neighbor:

  • When we moved in we baked cookies and took them to most of the neighbors on our block to introduce ourselves. We didn’t want to wait for them to come to us.
  • Took May Day flowers in homemade paper vases one year.
  • Attend our neighborhood association meetings.
  • Matt now serves on our association board after attending for two years.
  • Helped restart the neighborhood foot patrol to make it safer.
  • Go¬† to the two local parks with the kids a lot. Introduce ourselves and make conversation.
  • Sit on our front porch whenever it’s nice outside to say hi to people passing by.
  • Planted a garden box out front. It requires us to tend to it and it’s a great conversation starter.
  • Share our organically grown, tended with love, produce. So Portland I know.
  • Take a meal to a family in need or when they have a new baby.
  • Give hand-me-downs to friends around the corner.
  • Host an event. We’ve done Smore’s and Sparklers for 4th of July, backyard movie nights, chili and cornbread before Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood, and planned and hosted the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt.
  • Invite others over for a play date.
  • Invite other kids over to play to help out other parents go on a date or grocery shop alone.
  • Invite people over for coffee or a meal.
  • Take care of someones mail, yard, or animal while they’re away.
  • If at all possible, never say no to an invitation if you receive one to go to a neighbors house or event.
  • Take walks around the neighborhood frequently.
  • Go to local businesses, cafe’s, and restaurants.
  • We hung a swing in our tree in the front yard. It attracts kids and adults alike. My favorite is to see an adult swing on it when they think no one’s watching. Pure joy.
  • Lead a small group bible study or book club.
  • Pray for the people you know and don’t know yet.
  • Find out if your neighborhood is on Nextdoor.com. If it’s not, get it started! This has been an incredible way to connect with neighbors and make our neighborhood better and safer.

There are so many great ways to be a good neighbor. Just start small, say hi, look up from your phone, offer a smile.

I think our greatest example to follow was Jesus. He loved and served, with no strings attached. He wanted people to know that they were loved and he’s asked us to do the same. I fail at this every day. If you speed by my house I may yell at you; if your dog poops in my side yard and you leave it I’ll give you a definite stink eye; if you catch me before a cup of coffee in the morning I might be (okay, I’m definitely) cranky. Ask my friends at the bus stop, they know cranky me. We mess up all the time at loving people but we’re trying our best to love the people we live around and make the place we live better.

What ways have you loved and served your neighbors? I’m always in need of more ideas.

Jody

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