Every conversation we have had with our next door neighbors has been from our back porches.
The first one was the day we moved in last August. I was sitting back there and I noticed the novelty street sign on the side of their house that read “28 Barbary Lane.”
Hmmmm…. “28 Barbary Lane”….
Man, that was so familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it.
I sat out back on the steps of our deck for about 20 minutes or so while the movers brought in some items and kept saying “28 Barbary Lane” to myself over and over and over….. until it hit me.
I was familiar with this book series and the author when I was in high school and I think it was at the end of my senior year when they eventually made a television mini-series out of the books.
…And then their back door opened.
That was when I first met Ron and Don, the sweetest grampas I have ever met in my entire life! They were so nice, wonderful and welcoming! So, I asked…
“Are you big Armistead Maupin fans?”
They both looked SHOCKED, looked at each other and slowly stammered “…uh, yes! You know who that is?”
I brought them up to speed on how I read his books in high school and they proceeded to tell me that in the 20 years of living in their house, I was going to BY FAR be the best neighbor they ever had. Thank you very much!
Over the past 8 months we have had short conversations here and there from our back porch. If Craig was out there grilling, they would come out and say hello. If we were out with the dogs, they would let us know if they were going to be out of town, etc.
But lately we hadn’t seen them at all.
Craig and I were just talking on Sunday about how we hadn’t seen them lately and that we hoped that everything was okay. We’re in a Facebook group for our neighborhood, so certainly we would have heard something there if anything had happened…
Friends, I am so upset with myself.
Monday night Craig and I were on our back porch acting silly when neighbor Ron peeked out from his back door. Our dogs were barking at him like crazy and as we got them corralled inside in order to catch up with our neighbor, he let us know the horrible news.
Don passed away March 31st.
Ron let us know that it was expected and he is happy he is no longer in pain. And my heart ached. He told us about the funeral and how crazy it is how much goes into planning such affairs. We agreed. He said mostly everything was in order before his passing so that has helped. It was wonderful having family in town for the services.
My heart ached.
I am home all the time and I had no idea Don was sick. I had no idea he was gone. I am so sad for my neighbor’s loss and so sad I didn’t do more to know him. “Did you see the ambulance that was here a few Mondays ago to take him to the hospital?” No, I didn’t see the ambulance…
I am certainly not the best neighbor and all of this just makes me so sad at what our world has come to in this area. Ron doesn’t text, Ron isn’t on Facebook. He just lives less than 20 feet from me and I don’t take the time to know him.
So, I promise, from this day forward, to really, really do everything I can to love my neighbors well. I don’t know what that looks like, but I will do it. I got his phone number from across the fence and I gave him ours. I let him know that I’m almost always home and I’d love to know him better. I asked him for forgiveness in not being a better neighbor and I told him I really wanted to know more about Don. I want to know him. I want relationship.
Are you a good neighbor? I’d love to hear about what relationships look like in your neighborhood and what ideas you have to build community and relationship in our segmented culture. I would love some ideas on how I can intentionally be a better neighbor and I would also love to encourage you to do the same. I plan on using this book as a guide as I dig deeper into how to walk this out in my life.
Here are a few things you (and I!) can do TODAY to begin to get to know and love your neighbors!
Download the Next Door App or go to NextDoor.com
NextDoor is like Facebook for your neighborhood. It’s free so the first thing you can do is log on and check if your neighborhood is participating. If its not, you can start your neighborhood group. I just joined and I was happy to see that several of my neighbors are already on there. Now, when I’m out and about, I might recognize some of them (or the other way around…) and it could help start a conversation.
Take a Walk
Whether you live in the city like I do or in the country or suburbs, you can always go for a walk and say “hello” to every person you see. Have a smile on your face and make sure that you’re not in too much of a hurry in case people really do want to stop and chat. If you get their names, make sure you make a note of them ASAP as well as anything else they might have told you that you will want to remember so you won’t forget. Try to take walks at similar times on a regular basis to possibly get to interact with the same people over and over…. we all tend to be creatures of habit so that’s a great way to have multiple interactions with the same neighbors.
Deliver Some Sweets
Everyone loves a dessert, right? You always see in movies how neighbors bringing over plates of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies the day people move in – a welcome to the neighborhood gesture, right? Well, I can only think of one time that happened out of the many moves we have made, but as Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’m pretty sure he was talking about cookies when he said that, so let’s do it… and not just on such occasions. My daughter Vicky loves to bake but we shouldn’t eat the cookies, so I think this will be a great way for her to do what she loves and for us to get to know the beautiful people around us!
Life is too short, my friend, and relationships are really what make this world go round.
Let’s love our neighbors well.