My son and I were standing on our neighbor’s porch, waiting for her to answer the door after my son had rung the bell one too many times. We were going to rebuild our garage and needed her to sign off on it so there would be no surprises when a construction truck parked itself behind her garage. I could see her through her glass door and yet, she refused to get up and answer it. From the first day we moved in, we had been a bit skeptical about this neighbor. Perhaps intimidated by her stand-offish personality. The other neighbors greeted us with traditional welcome baskets and handwritten information. Yet, this neighbor was the one we could not quite understand.
I knocked again hoping this wouldn’t get weird. Finally, I mouthed at the glass door that we needed her to sign something. She got up and apologized, “I’m so sorry, I thought you were trying to sell me something.” Did my cute son and I look like salespeople? She quickly signed the paper and shut the door. Normally, I would brush off this encounter and drop my mission to befriend her, but we shared a fence with this woman. I was determined to show her we weren’t your average neighbors. We were not takers, we were givers. We treated our neighbors the way we wanted to be treated, with kindness, friendliness and helpfulness.
Also, I just didn’t want things to be awkward between us…we shared too much space for things to be on bad terms.
So, over the next few months, we dropped notes and snacks on her porch. We would text her if we ever were having people over to be respectful of the shared space. We weren’t obnoxious but, we wanted to remind her that someone nearby cared for her and was thinking of her.
On one particular afternoon, the kids and I were outside playing when she came bounding out her front door and gave me a huge hug. I was shocked. This woman had never once showed an ounce of warmth and here she was hugging me in the front yard. Her dog has passed away and I just happened to have left her a note that morning. She said it was the exact thing she needed. We chatted for a bit and for the first time, we got to genuinely know one another.
Why do we love our neighbor knowing it could be awkward?
Is it to have this happy “everyone gets along” ending like we had with this neighbor? Not really.
Tim and I moved into our home four years ago with this thought: there is purpose where you live and there is a mission field with the people physically next door. Your home is an extension of your ministry and God calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Gal. 5:14). Knowing our neighbors has blessed us significantly with friendship and fun, but there have been hard moments too that our neighbors feel safe to come to us with for prayer and support.
It may seem awkward to ask for your neighbor’s number and text them later that you’re praying for their upcoming surgery—but it’s really not. You may feel uncomfortable inviting neighbors over for a cupcake party in the front yard, but trust me, they will show up. It may even seem weird to send them a card and some candy around Easter or Christmas, but I know they will appreciate it more than they let on.
Despite our differences in politics, in religion, in finances or in raising our kids…the love of God covers all awkward comments, offenses or misunderstood first impressions.
So, who is that neighbor you’ve been meaning to reach out to?
As you chose your next brave step, remember that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). So no matter how they respond to your:
act of kindness,
your simple first ‘hello,’
know that we don’t do it for approval, but simply to be God’s love in our corners of the world.