Loving my neighbor

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Obeying this commandment does not come easy to me. In the course of occupying 1o different houses I have found it increasingly hard to love, much less tolerate, many of my neighbors. Neighborhoods are not what they used to be and those living in them tend to be more interested in following the homeowners' association bylaws than actually having relationship with those fellow homeowners. Once we had children the harmony with those we lived alongside seemed to decrease in each subsequent neighborhood. Having lively, loud, outdoor-loving boys made us an easy target for blame. If there were tire marks on a lawn, broken branches on a tree or anything in the landscape out of place, my kids were the culprits. Even when they weren't guilty of the crime. Every time our doorbell rang I braced myself for another angry face sharing their opinion of our what they consider mediocre parenting. The saving grace has been that every time we have moved on from a neighborhood and later run into those folks they always tell us how "it's just not the same since you guys left." They find that it's the life they are missing. Well, that'll teach ya. Kidding. Sort of. In spite of my negative experiences, I got a chance to redeem a part of my hardened heart to those I'm called to love.

Because of our track record I am always tentative when we enter into a new cul-de-sac (it always seems to be a cul-de-sac). The first time I was coming to this current house, I asked for directions and was told: "look for the house that looks like a daycare threw up in the yard. We're the green house next door." I thought: "well, now that's a colorful description." Once I came by I realized how very accurate it was. To be honest, there was a part of me that thought "phew, we are off the hook." If the neighbors were tolerating this, living near our family would be a walk in the park.

The weekend we moved in, these said neighbors were the first ones to greet us and offer their assistance. In the days that followed, we met the rest of the neighbors. Many of them made it a point to comment on their expectations of the neighborhood and how this particular family wasn't measuring up. I think they wanted to insure that just because we were renters, the standards would not be lowered.

Because the winter months here don't bring much daylight or pleasant weather, we all tend to hibernate. When we do spot each other during our comings and goings we exchange the normal pleasantries but it stops there. My ostracized neighbors continued to be friendly but we didn't say much beyond "Hi, how are you?" After hearing Lori's story this past weekend I was inspired to be more intentional in loving my neighbors. I was looking for opportunities to have conversation and just be available. Lately our weather has been much more inviting than normal. Yesterday Ben and I were out kicking around the soccer ball and cleaning up leaves and branches in the front yard when the darling girls next door came home from school. I asked about their day and it turned into a 20 minute conversation about everything from how immature girls are in middle school (coming from the 13 year old girl) to the fact that tomorrow was their mom's birthday. I asked what kinds of interests she had and if she liked coffee. Maybe I could whip up a latte and bring it over in the morning. (even though I don't know how to whip one up, I could at least run to Starbucks) The 11-year-old girl said, "I'm not saying you have to do this but my mom LOVES angel food cake. It is her absolute favorite!" Talk about an underhanded pitch. She had no idea I loved to bake cakes but God did. When the girls found out I didn't have a tube pan, the precious little 6-year-old ran inside and brought back theirs for me to use. I told the girls to keep it a secret but that I was going to make sure their mom had her favorite cake on her birthday. Their faces lit up.

This afternoon I made the easiest cake ever ( just a cake mix and water), garnished it with some fresh strawberries and went over and rang the bell. The birthday girl answered the door and was astonished. I told her that her daughters had outed her and were in on the covert operation. With tears in her eyes she told me, "No one has made me an angel food cake since my mother died." Her response told me that it had been many years. She hugged and thanked me and I said goodbye. Is that amazing or what? I had no clue. But, again, God did.

I am humbled that he would give me another shot and use me to show his love to my neighbors. May this be the beginning of many more stories to share.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Loving my neighbor”

~beautyandjoy~ said...

Dana - I am loving catching up on your blog. It's making me cry and cringe (convicion - about joy) and smile. It's beautiful. Thank you for letting me read it. It's such a gift.

Love, Misha