The Lord has really been challenging me to lean into the command to “Love your neighbor”. How could I do that well if I didn’t even know their names? So, one of my goals for this year was to get to know the names of all of my neighbors. Our street has 30 craftsman style homes whose occupants are much more diverse than the homogenous floor plans and paint schemes would have you believe. Young families, newlyweds, middle-aged singles, retired couples, single moms, college students, and a few game day houses make up our block.
My husband, Jim, and I made the decision to leave our (amazing) small group to focus on cultivating relationships where we live. We play outside with our kids, greet and wave to everyone who passes, and have logged many miles walking, skipping, strolling, and hauling our kids up and down Embry Lane; and we saw this summer as the time to really get proactive. We took our 3 kids under 4 door-to-door to hand out invitations to a neighborhood potluck at our house – completely underestimating how much this experience would foreshadow the actual event. The kids loved knocking a dozen times as loud as they could then moving over to the window to see if anyone was coming. We worked on this at every house and never quite got the etiquette of solicitation down pat. Naturally, there were a few spats on who got to do the actual handing over of the invitations and an epic meltdown with only 5 houses to go. Not to mention the awkward but enthusiastic conversations of introducing ourselves to people we had lived on the same street with for years and telling them about a thing we were having in 10 days.
Dinner happened the first Sunday of this month and there is no way for me to accurately describe how insanely imperfect but strangely holy it was. Highlights include: a rainy downpour that necessitated all of the guests grab tables and chairs and bring them inside, setting them up inside, running the length of our home, Jim getting drenched while grilling, my son (who has food allergies) throwing up in the middle of the table, a kid getting stuck between the china cabinet and the couch (ok, same kid – he had a rough night). Throw in not quite enough chairs or serving utensils, kids who had refused to nap, and nearly two dozen gracious neighbors and you may be able to picture it.
When everyone had finally gone, and we got the kids down past their bedtime, I couldn’t stop smiling. Neighbors who have been around since the homes were first built 8 years ago, met for the first time. Everyone mentioned how great it was to know other people on the street, and y’all, the food (Thank you Lord for the inventor of fruit pizza, amen?). I know, for a fact, that this shin dig and my attitude could only be the Holy Spirit at work. Without the ability to truly love my neighbors – I would have been working (& failing) to impress my neighbors. And trust me, the only thing impressive about that night was how few toys were under the couch when it got moved against the wall.
It was a beautiful and weird and I can’t wait to do it again.