How do I love my neighbor? Let me count the ways. When your neighbors' dog barks all night long and when their pink lawn flamingo is lost in their uncut grass and has started to mold, how do we love them?
In the ideal neighborhood everyone would get along, mow their lawn and have 2.5 kids and a dog. If you know this neighborhood please tell me where it is. Having lived all over the world, I can attest to the fact that you will always have neighbors you enjoy and those you don't. The key is to learn to live with all of them and even love them.
I can hear you now, never gonna happen. Here's my story, to help you understand why you should.
How do you buy a 3,300 square foot, seven bedroom, four bathroom home a block off the beach in one of the most coveted Seaside resort towns on the Oregon Coast? And not pay an arm and a leg? You get an amazing deal, because no one wants to live by your neighbors. The location and house made it magical and wonderful, unless you looked over the fence. Behind us were four sad little bungalows, crammed with large families, strange alcoholics and groups of 20-year-olds partying at the beach. Our house and the bungalows sat one driveway width apart.
Almost every night there were loud parties involving alcohol and unsavory music. The bedroom windows overlooked that driveway — and the parties. At times it was unbearable. My daughters began to watch one of the little houses, in it were three little girls, about the same age. Over time, the girls talked and became good friends.
At first we were wary. Then one day Andrea came to play. Thin, petite and smiling non-stop, the first thing she did was volunteer to help the kids clean their rooms so they could go outside and play. She was an instant favorite. As it turned out, her family had lived almost 800 miles away in the same city we had before we moved to the beach. It was heaven sent. There was another girl in the apartments whose life was much more difficult, who would trail behind Andrea like a shadow.
When we opened our home and hearts to them, we learned a valuable lesson: Amazing people sometimes live in tiny apartments right next to you. You may have no idea how amazing your neighbors are until you cross the invisible barriers you have placed and give them just a little smile.
Years passed and I have been privileged to stay in touch with Andrea and her family. We like to think we made a positive impact on her life, but the truth is her smiles and loving character made us better people, reminding us that love is just around the corner.
So how do you go about meeting your neighbors:
Food is always a winner. One of our neighbors was from India and invited us for curry after we baked her a loaf of bread to welcome her to the neighborhood. The Curry was wonderful, but the conversation was better. As it turns out, we were living by a quiet unassuming scientist working on a world renowned project while disguised as a middle class mother. Never judge your neighbor by their ability to landscape. They might be growing weeds because they are developing a drug to cure cancer or worse, have cancer.
Reach out and serve
. You can sometimes even see a need without knocking on a door. One of our neighbors was deployed to Iraq and left her house empty. We started to notice a truck in the driveway and decided to knock on the door. After a 15 minute conversation we found out she was a fiance, soon to be married to our neighbor's son. She planned to be married in the backyard of the home that had sat vacant for six months. She was getting married in three weeks. Realizing she was desperate for help our neighborhood stepped up and tidied the yard. It was a small service but left a big impact for years to come.
Knowing your neighbors is great preparation for emergencies
When a storm hits (or anything causing a prolonged catastrophe) your neighbors may be all you have. After a hurricane, we couldn't drive anywhere due to debris. It became a loving neighborhood experience for five days. Two days into it, we found a neighbor who was a single woman, she had been in her vacation rental without power, heat or food and was terrified. Across the street, we had been having banquets of thawing meat while gathered around fireplaces. Never again! We committed to overcoming our shyness and knowing our neighbors — even the temporary ones.
We were so inspired by the blessing of knowing our little Andrea, we spend our time getting to know our other neighbors.
We reach out because we are Christian. Christ teaches in Luke Chapter 10, verse 27, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." We can promise a fuller life, and heart, if you take the time to get to know your neighbors. You will get back more than you give.