We moved to a tiny town when our oldest daughter was a year old. Before the days of widespread cell phones, we pulled into town, and my husband asked to use a neighbor’s phone to call the water superintendent. A woman answered the phone and told Tim the water superintendent wasn’t available. “Well, he said to call as soon as we arrived in town. We really need to have our water turned on.”
She replied, “Oh, you’re the new family! He’s on his way. Someone saw you drive into town and called us!”
A few years later, I arrived home after a grocery shopping trip and tried to hurriedly unload the groceries so the girls weren’t unsupervised for long. My final load was light, and I jumped onto the front steps from the side as I’d often done. But this time I missed the steps all together and rolled onto the grass. Unharmed, I jumped up and ran into the house in time to hear the phone ring. “Hello?”
“Susan? Are you okay? I saw you fall off the steps!” Theresa exclaimed into the phone.
Theresa and her husband, John, lived across the empty lot, so they were nearly a block away, but they seemed to notice a lot. John yelled at my husband after he saw me mowing while pregnant. (I like to mow, and I’m a bit stubborn. My husband’s reply? “John, I’d like to see you try to stop her!”) John and Theresa might have noticed a lot, but we had no doubt they cared for us. John regularly lent Tim tools and gave him suggestions of how to fix something. Theresa shared beautiful flowers. And they picked up and later delivered the birthday cake Tim ordered when I was overdue with our second daughter. (It did the trick, too. I went into labor later that evening!)
We live in a society in which we pull into our garages and go into our houses without ever seeing our neighbors. We often live away from family and don’t have people close enough to call and ask for a quick babysitter. We would rather drive several miles to pick up a couple eggs or flour instead of knocking on a neighbor’s door to ask for help. We rarely live with extended family, and our relief about that is another telltale sign that we see some of those deep connections a more negative than positive. We want our own space and individual options and control. We build houses large enough for each person to have personal bedrooms and, often, bathrooms.
How much space do we need and at what cost?
Getting to know neighbors is risky. You might be rejected. You might need to deal with conflict. You might have to sacrifice your time or resources to help. But the reverse is true, too. You might be accepted and find a place to belong. You might make significant friendships. You might benefit from sharing time and resources with others.
We who are strong in faith should help the weak with their weaknesses, and not please only ourselves. Let each of us please our neighbors for their good, to help them be stronger in faith. Romans 15:1-2
You have a choice to make. Listen to cultural messages and believe you can do it all on your own, that taking control and making your own decisions is easier and more desirable than involving others. Or listen to God’s plan for doing life in intentional relationships.
Which will you choose?
Don’t forget your friend or your parent’s friend. Don’t always go to your family for help when trouble comes. A neighbor close by is better than a family far away. Proverbs 27:10