In our continuing topical series on the Christian life, Pastor Rich spoke about neighbors, specifically the ways in which we can be a good neighbor in ways that might seem a little unusual to society, or to our own preferences.
Rich characterized the typical neighbor relationship as one where one principally avoids the other. Our neighbors are friendly background noise to our lives. Their homes should be kept up to a certain standard so as not to offend our sensibilities. They should demand little or nothing of us, but if there is something we want of them they should respond immediately.
There are a lot of reasons we might react in this way toward our neighbor. We may be introverted and less inclined to social interaction generally. We may feel that we don’t have enough time. Or we may have cultivated a personality that makes certain friends and keeps them to the exclusion of all others.
I feel like a guy with a lot of demands on his time. In addition to spending 45 hours a week at work (5 of which are lunch but I’m still stuck in Delaware), plus another hour plus each day commuting, I already feel pretty drained. Couple that with engaging passions like the writing, and trying to spend time with my wife and I don’t often feel like I have time for anyone else. I enjoy the occasional social interaction, life group and church, monthly poker, and indeed even find these times restorative, but I’m not looking to add a whole bunch more to my life. When it gets to the weekend there’s either honey-do, my own projects, or frankly most weekends just rest and restoration.
And I’m a bit of a curmudgeon at heart. I tend to care only what a specific few people care about me, and the rest’s opinion matters very little. I’ve never been the sort of person who cares what my neighbor thinks of my lawn (breaking social contract perhaps) and in fact think the fact that they’d have an opinion on anything I do to be demonstrably ridiculous (except loud noise at night because that’s just rude, this isn’t a college neighborhood).
If I see making friends with the neighbors as simply fulfilling a need for social interaction, then I’m already quite satisfied with my friends, my church, my co-workers, that I don’t really need anything else.
But what about seeing my neighbors as a kind of mission, another opportunity to spread the word of God to the people around me. I think a lot about the fact that I don’t really have much of a place to spread God’s love, work is predominantly Christian (at least the people I interact with), and aside from a couple of specific friends I will probably be having lifelong conversations with, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to simply be helpful to people.
Except I totally do.
I don’t know about choosing where you live specifically as a mission, something Rich touched on Sunday, but there’s plenty of mission to be had wherever you are. Clintonville’s a pretty nice place to live but everywhere has problems, people in need, or even just relationships that can be better.
For me, at least at first, it would probably be easier to build on something I already do, invite a neighbor to the monthly poker game, maybe time our daily klaw (that’s walk backwards so the dog doesn’t know what it is) so we can walk with our next door neighbors (assuming our dogs can learn to get along).
This is an area in which I feel personally challenged, which has the advantage of having a lot to write about, even if I don’t particularly know how to fix it at the moment. A lot of my life the last couple of years has been softening around people, not being so quick to judge, and to be more willing to give of myself, and to receive help (which Rich correctly assesses is actually harder to do).
How about you? Do you find interacting with neighbors comes naturally, or is it something you really have to work at?