Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This last weekend, I finally got around to doing something I've wanted to do for the past several weeks:  make cookies for my new neighbors.  Ever since closing on our new house just over a month ago, we've been fiddling and dilly-dallying about our home like little squirrels preparing for winter.  Fix this, repair that, paint here, unpack there, and so forth.   I'm sure our neighbors have been wide-eyed at their windows a bit, wondering just who we are and what we're up to.

I'm not used to neighborhoods.  I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, where our closest "neighbor" was a couple miles away and I only saw them if they needed to borrow a tractor or let us into their cellar for a tornado (no, I'm not kidding).  Needless to say, I didn't grow up with that "Wonder Years" experience of riding bikes until the street lights came on or strolling down sidewalks on my way home from school.  

Since then, I've either lived in dorms or apartments, and while we've experienced community throughout the years, this is our first true neighborhood that we can call our own.  Yay for neighbors!

I wasn't exactly sure how to get to know my neighbors.  I've officially met a few of them as we got our mail at the same time or arrived in our drive ways coming and going.  But, there were still many houses on our block that I had yet to see whom lived inside.  I wanted them to know that the new residents of this little house were happy and loud, and obliged to offer an extra egg or cup of sugar should the need arise.

So, we made cookies!  I figured, at worst, I'd rather be known as "that lady with the loud kids who once brought us cookies" than anything else they could come up with from witnessing me from afar.  What could we lose?  It might be awkward and uncomfortable, but at least they would know we tried to make an effort and introduce ourselves.

Most people weren't home.  We walked around on a beautiful Saturday, knocking, and eventually leaving a ziploc'd plate of cookies tagged with our "Happy to be in the neighborhood" slogan written on top.  We did meet a few new people, who informed us of their joy of living in the neighborhood.  We were also thrilled to find out that a total of three police officers live within a block of our house, which made us feel all the more safe living in our cozy nook.

And, then, we walked up to our elderly neighbors with whom we very nearly share a yard.  While our yard is fully fenced, on one side of it it slopes up to another yard which we both have clear views of from our homes.  I had met the wife who lived their, and she was quite happy to meet us and our little girls, glad to see someone using the yard with such jubilant delight.

There were a few people standing outside the home as we approached with our cookie-giving entourage, and we noticed an unusual amount of cars in the driveway.  My first thought was, "Oh, how nice to have people over on such a lovely day!  I hope they like the cookies!" which quickly turned to sadness as I got closer.  The elderly husband had passed away that same morning, just hours before.  

We politely handed over our feeble plate of cookies and sent our prayers and sympathies to the family as we left.  My goodness, it was such a shock, we were so very sorry for disturbing the moment.  Nevertheless, I was grateful to know of the news and glad we could offer our condolences. 

You just never know who you will touch, what timing might be set up before you, or exactly why you might be prompted to take action.  I had meant to deliver those cookies weeks before, but if I had, maybe I would have never known about our neighbor mourning.  And, what if I never bothered to introduce our family at all?  Who knows how those little cookies might be used...but, at least that morning they made a difference to one family, no matter how little a piece of distraction or joy it may have brought.

Later that day, while I was out running errands, the sweet neighbor lady came out to the yard and spoke with Josh, thanking us for the neighborly token.  I sure hope this is only the beginning of how we integrate ourselves into this little neighborhood.  It might be a long time before we get to know everyone, but it only took a morning for us to let everyone know a little bit about us.  

Sure, years ago it used to be common for neighborhoods to be the one to bring cookies to the "new kids on the block", but we just don't live in that era anymore.  I'm thrilled to flip the tables and take the opportunity to reach out and see what happens.  Yep, it was awkward.  Yep, it took time and energy.  But, I'm thankful God prompted my heart to take that step outside my comfort zone and privileged to have witnessed the difference it made already.

It was a good reminder to me that sometimes you don't need to wait for an invitation...you just need to step out. The truth is, you just never know who might need a cookie. 

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