I remember the woman who lived next door to us when I was little. At that time we inhabited a town home.
Our house was connected to hers, as was our porch. She had a high privacy fence and she was pretty particular about the days when it was her turn to use the outside water. (The water spigot was on our house, but two houses were required to share the spigot.) At one point my mom put rocks around a tree in the front yard and one day while we were out our neighbor spray painted the rocks pink. It was kind of sneaky, and although they were just rocks, slightly disappointing. She mostly kept to herself and she didn't seem to want to make too much conversation, at least that's how I remember it...
A couple doors down there lived an elderly couple. Ray and Vera were their names - but everyone called Vera "Weezie". Her son in law had given her the nickname after Weezie from "The Jeffersons". I'm not entirely sure why, but at any rate it stuck. Ray drove an old Ford truck and he watched "Flipper" every day. My mom and dad would let me run over and Ray would happily greet me and welcome me in so I could watch the show with him. He passed away shortly after and Weezie was left alone. Right around the time that Ray passed on a lot of my friends had moved out of the neighborhood and I was pretty lonely for a friend. I took to going over to Weezie's house every day for a couple hours. I spent time talking to her while she would trace patterns in a napkin with a pen and smoked a cigarette, tapping the ashes into a styrofoam cup filled partway with water.
Weezie had beautiful skin. She always wore the same green pants that looked like they had at one point belonged to a pants suit, coupled with a white sweatshirt. She acted crabby, but she certainly was a softy. She always gave me cookies and let me draw pictures on the little chalkboard next to her sliding door. When I was 12 we moved away and shortly thereafter she moved in with her daughter. She passed away not long after that. I still miss her.
During my college years when I was moving from apartment to apartment I didn't get to know my neighbors really at all. I was rarely home and already had plenty of friends.
When Greg and I got married we didn't meet too many of the people in our neighborhood initially. We lived in a mobile home park and it did seem that there were some neighbors who had been there for a long time, but there were also a couple homes that seemed to have a higher turn over. The park was beginning to pioneer some rental mobile homes and it seemed that people came and went in those much more frequently. Our experiences with neighbors included waving at the older couple who lived kitty corner to us, borrowing our neighbor's paint roller extension pole and breaking it - oops (!), enjoying the tremors in our house when the college kids next door decided to perform their rendition of "Stomp", and the attempted sale of our mobile home to the guy who lived across the street. All in all, we didn't really have a lot of neighbors for friends at all. The people we did know were more acquaintances.
When we moved into our current home we already knew two of our neighbors. I was friends with one of them from a mom's group I had been in. We also discovered that the person who lived next door was Greg's former classmate. Small world!
We decided shortly after we moved in to our house that we wanted to get to know people. After all, this was a move that was not going to change in the near future. Every chance we got we have attempted to make friends with people. From walking across the street to introduce ourselves, to saying hello as often as possible, handing out extra produce, loaning tools, making Christmas cookies, and just smiling a lot! I'm sure we get kind of annoying, but being neighborly has become pretty fun.
In looking back on all the places that I've lived I realize that I have been a very different neighbor as the years have progressed. From the type of neighbor who treats home as merely a stopping point in the midst of their day, to the neighbor who would congenially wave, and finally now to wanting to actually know my neighbors and have a relationship with them.
I was sitting at home yesterday enjoying a moment of quiet. After a couple days of beautiful weather during which we were granted an illustrious glimpse of spring, Jack Frost decided to make another appearance whipping us with wind and snow and below freezing temperatures. I'd be lying if I said I was happy to see the reappearance of our powdery white friend.
Anyway, in the midst of the quiet I suddenly heard a motor in my front yard. I immediately knew what it was. All winter long our next door neighbor has faithfully snow blown our entire front walk every chance he gets. With wind practically bowling him over there he was out there. For most people snow blowing a sidewalk might not be difficult, but our neighbor has some physical limitations that make it difficult for him to breathe. Yet, there he was being a blessing to us... again. I wanted to cry. With the baby and schooling it is usually hours before I'm able to get outside to shovel our walk, if at all. By the time my husband comes home it is usually dark and our weeknights are so busy that he hasn't been able to shovel nearly as often as usual.
I grabbed my boots and ran outside. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him what a blessing he's been to us. Words can't really explain how deeply his gift of clearing our walk has affected me.
This is just one of many examples of kindness our neighbors have shown us. From last minute babysitting, to rallying to loan us heaters when our furnace broke, offering to teach our kids art, and watching our house while we're on vacation. We have been showered with the warmth of friendship. Having people who genuinely care about us around makes living in this home that much more valuable.
The fact that getting to know the people who live around me has made such a difference in my life got me to thinking about how that transfers in my every day. The act of taking time, caring, and loving others on a regular basis - well isn't that how life should be lived all the time? When someone drops their groceries in the store, that's my neighbor. When someone cuts me off in traffic, that's my neighbor. When someone frustrates me... that's my neighbor. When someone is difficult to deal with, that person is my neighbor. When someone is having a hard day, she or he is my neighbor. When a little one is screaming and crying, they're my neighbor. When someone is belittling me, they are my neighbor. When I see someone suffering, that person is my neighbor. When someone is being forgotten, that's my neighbor. There is potential in every situation to consider others as my neighbor; someone I care about and someone whom I desire to be happy. This includes everyone. This includes, the lost, the sad, the lonely, the poor, the rich, the hungry.
I am so glad that I have the privilege of getting to know my neighbors.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:36-40