3 Ways I’m Trying To Be A Better Neighbor
Everyone wants a neighbor who is kind and loving and who will keep an eye out for you and your home. It’s also nice when they are willing to engage with you and get to know you and perhaps even develop a true friendship. That’s the ideal situation, right? But why is it so hard to reach that ideal when you are trying to be a good neighbor? To answer that question, let’s talk about groceries.
Way back in the day, Bob would go to Larry and tell him he’d trade him a barrel of potatoes for a bushel of corn. Does corn even come in bushels? Anyway, you get the point. People needed their neighbors to be successful or else they themselves would struggle. Communities counted on the efforts of each of the individuals and neighbors were intricately interconnected. They watched over each other’s farms and bartered and plowed together as a way to get their food.
Then came grocery stores where you could get your food. Then superstores. Then these stores got self-check-out lines where you still saw other human beings but didn’t need to really interact with them. And now? We order our groceries off of Amazon.
That’s just one example. Every facet of our lives have become less connected and thus we are living more and more independent, isolated lives.
And yet we still long to have and be good neighbors.
I wish I was a more proactive neighbor. In other words, (in more honest words), I’m just an ok neighbor. At the end of the day I usually choose to walk straight from my car and into my home, maybe I’ll wave hello but my wife and I need to make dinner and get the kids ready for bed and go through the whole process. I really wish I could connect more… but I don’t beat myself up too much. I used to, quite a bit actually, but then I found out that Jesus doesn’t like us to beat people up. And apparently that includes myself, too.
So! Here’s what I’m trying to do… take steps. Progress. Be better a little at a time. When God does open the door for me to connect with someone I want to really connect. For instance, at our church we have a Halloween block party coming up where we will set up little pop-up celebrations at our homes so that we can bring light to the world and get to know our neighbors. So, during that open door, here are some things I am going to try:
- Be real and really care.
I’m not going to try and simply be polite. I want to be authentic. I want to look them in the eye and really be interested in who they are and what they are saying. Have you ever thought about whoever you’re interacting with has a soul?! They have limitless potential! And tons of stories! And God loves them (just as much as He loves you)! So they deserve attention. Real attention.
- So that means I am going to ask questions.
I heard one pastor say something along the lines recently, “You’re often one or two questions away from the good stuff.” What did he mean by this? Well, he gave this example of this woman he met who had recently retired from being a nurse for 30 plus years. Instead of saying “Wow, congrats.” and moving on he started asking questions. Questions like, “Were you at different hospitals or the same one for the whole time?” “Tell me, on that last day did you like carry a box with all your stuff from your workspace to your car?” “What did you do with all that stuff?” “What are you up to now?” “What’s been the biggest surprise of being retired?” Etc. Etc. Etc. If you ask questions and ask them sincerely with a bit of freshness to each question, you’ll be surprised at how a mediocre conversation can turn into a very interesting one.
- Start with simple conversations and build from there.
When you interact with more and more people, not each of them will turn into real relationships, but some might! Take one interaction with one neighbor and if they told you about something the last time you talked, ask them about the same thing. Not as a formulaic way to interact, but because you’re following rule #1.
If we will walk through open doors, God will keep on opening up new ones.
Josh is a husband, father, pastor, and aspiring laundromat missionary. He is incredibly curious about the way people connect with each other and with God.