Friday, February 5, 2016
Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Neighbors
Let me just say, I'm a terrible neighbor. I love my house, my neighborhood, but I stay in my house, a lot. Like a lot a lot. A lot. But I've also had a lot of neighbors in my day, some good, some not so good, some amazing.
Where you live, what type of home and community really sets the stage for how you interact with your neighbors. If you're Sally sunshine and move into a hood of Debbie downers, well that might suck for you. Trust me, it sucks worse for Debbie downers to move into a hood full of Sally sunshines. It's how cranky Cindy gets born.
My best advice is for you to be you. If you're into your house and pajamas, then please do not agree to chair the welcoming committee. But if you like to bake bread or cookies, then by all means feel free to share. You don't even need a special occasion, just wrap them up in a paper plate and tinfoil and walk them on over. You'll see me in my pjs but so what? Cookies make friends. Find a way to interact with your neighbors that speaks to your gifts.
This is something especially for us hermits, if your neighbor invites you to something, make an effort to go. In this day and age when we don't have to even go to the grocery store for food, could spend months at a time not interacting with a single person, it says something when your neighbor thinks to ask you to come over. I hear you, in your house only yoga pants and holey t-shirt, giving me a deep sigh. How in the world is going to someone else's party hospitable? When we agree to spend time with people, we're saying you're important to me. And what could be more affirming than saying "I see you" to the very people we see so often we forget that they're there?
There's a scripture about your neighbor. Actually, there are LOT of them, most tell you to love them. The one I was thinking of is this
Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.
Proverbs 25:17 NLT
I think this may be why the phone was invented, so you could call over instead of just showing up. So think back to those cookies I told you about, don't be a nuisance with them. And by all means make sure they like them, because you know, not everyone is a fan of oatmeal raisin. Not me though, I love oatmeal raisin.
What about that other scripture? The love your neighbor one. It's in the Bible. Some may even say it's the point of the majority of the parables and lessons. How do we actually love them?
Well, part of it is praying for them. Lifting them up in prayer, by name if possible. Praying for others gives them a place in our hearts that no other activity can do. Nice thing about praying is that it doesn't require permission from them and it doesn't always require interaction. Score one for the introverts!
Another part is deferring to their desires. They share a property line with you, deferring to their desire for that line, even if it goes against your better judgement can be loving. We've had a neighbor that placed their dogs' kennel on the property line practically under our bedroom window and let their dogs bark from 7am to 10pm all year long. Poor Joel, he was home a lot that year. It took him several years to even think about think about getting a dog. If we had been long term residents, we would have had a talk about it. And probably soundproofed our home.
It also means wanting the best for them and occasionally, helping to make that happen. We had amazing neighbors when we lived in Port Huron. They were kind and loving towards us in many of the moments that we felt forgotten and beat down. They took us in and loved on us when we were hardest to love. One of the most loving things they did was to help us leave. They took our then four year old for the day so that we could pack, let us eat pizza at their house so we wouldn't have to make another mess to clean, they moved boxes into the truck, furniture to the curb and so much more. They were amazing. They showed their love for us by not just letting us go, but making our leaving possible.
In a lot of ways, I wish that I could be more like them, some people leave extra special marks on our lives. We can do that for our neighbors, but we have to be available to their needs. God knows that we're living lives right next to each other, if we're praying for them, we might see that we become the vehicle for amazing things.
To be hospitable to your neighbor means being open for a wild ride. You may have midnight lawn mowers or early morning jazzercisers. Your neighbor could be a quiet hermit or a young family. They will likely be something completely other than you and your home, but that is what will make loving them interesting. God's most enjoyable lessons are sometimes the ones that we'd prefer not to learn. Neighbors are worth it. Take the time, say hello, begin to pray and see what happens from there.