I once invited my whole family to a neighbor’s house for a party.
Let me explain. Several years ago we canceled cable TV. This has (mostly) been a brilliant decision except for important activities like watching the US Open (for my high-school-tennis-coaching husband) or catching the 8,437 basketball games during March Madness.
For other important TV watching experiences, we usually manage to get ourselves invited to friends’ homes. Except there was this time, last February, when there was big weather in these parts. It was a blustery, level-3, no-one-but-medical-personnel-and-law-enforcement-should-be-out-or-you’ll-be-fined kind of snowstorm, and so we were stuck — quite literally — in our cable-TV-less home on Superbowl Sunday.
(Oh the shame!)
So I did what any self-respecting American would do: I texted the neighbors and asked if we could pretty-please come watch the game at their house.
Now let me pause right here to tell you that we had never been to this neighbor’s home before. I’m happy (relieved?) to report that they enthusiastically (sympathetically?) let our whole family crash on their couch, eat their treats, yell at their TV, and criticize the commercials.
This same neighbor? She recently made hot blueberry crisp and shared the photo on Instagram. My husband commented that he’d be “right over,” and fifteen minutes later, she brought over enough steaming hot, glorious blueberry goodness for our whole family.
(Wait … could it have been that she didn’t want us to invite ourselves over again? Never mind…)
My point is this… our little neighborhood is no different than any other little neighborhood in any other small town in any other state. It’s a street with some houses on it with some people living inside them. The difference is that there are a handful of people here who are taking the time to connect with the people in their circle.
Like the time Donna knocked on our door to hurry us across the street to dance in a flushing fire hydrant in the summer heat. Or when she invited us over to dissect a hornets’ nest in her driveway.
Or when Abby fixed us a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies on that day she kept our 3-year-old hours longer than planned during a medical emergency.
Then there’s Meg who just yesterday painted our youngest’s finger- and toenails during a play date with our girls, who also invited all the children to go Christmas caroling the past several Decembers.
There’s also MaryEllen who has taken the time to get to know our tender teenager through a journal as they write back and forth to one another on the days when our daughter looks in on their Golden Retriever when they’re gone. And her husband Tom who was such a good sport when our three-year-old not-so-accidentally poured a bucket of water on him from her blow-up pool.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed that “the person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community” (from Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community).
It’s easy to keep our noses so intently buried in our own calendars and lists and phones that we fail to engage those around us, all the while (ironically?) lamenting the elusiveness of close-knit community.
But people here in my neighborhood? They are teaching me to ditch the nebulous Norman Rockwell-like dream of community in exchange for simply loving and loving simply the people right next door… with a plate of cookies or some fingernail polish, a dance in the fire hydrant or a quiet conversation in a 25 cent notebook.
And all this leaves me prayerfully wondering: What one small act of kindness can I do today (right now?) to love simply the people in my neighborhood? What can I do to be creating community one neighbor at a time?