For seven years, I lived in a house where I did not know the neighbor on either side of me, except by name. We did not go out together or really understand what was going on in each other’s lives. I was guilty. I did not initiate any kind of meaningful relationship other than the cordial “hello and goodbye” when we would see each other in the front yard.
In February 2015, my wife and I moved outside of Orlando to live closer to her mom. When we began to unpack, I thought to myself, this is a new place for both of us and I would truly like to meet and begin relationships with our neighbors. In less than two months, we went bowling with the neighbors on our left, and went out for breakfast with the neighbors to the right of us. We began by taking casual walks through the neighborhood, and now have even shared some holidays together.
Being a neighbor is not about an address on the same street; it is about building relationships and caring for one another. Do I truly care about my neighbor? I can fly to another country and be compassionate and generous, yet I cannot walk next door and deliver a meal when someone is sick. My priorities were changing and I was taking new actions along the way to becoming a neighbor who cares.
A recent group text message began with, “Want to meet for dinner and bowling this Friday?” Come Friday night, there were 17 of us together for dinner and 21 of us went bowling. I would say the conversations ranged from family issues and work demands to spiritual questions. Now, I find myself wondering what life would be like without my neighbors.
One weekend I received a text from a neighbor needing help repairing his fence. I’m far from a “fixer upper” kind of guy, but I am not afraid to learn or help. I showed up early and for two hours we worked on making the much needed repairs. The best part is both of us have a daughter and can relate to each other’s needs and concerns for them. Our conversation went beyond the superficial and into our concerns for our daughters’ futures. We spoke of helping our daughters live a life with moral convictions, respect for themselves and others, and foremost, to live a life that honors God.
When asked what is the greatest commandment of all, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 He wants us to first love Him—so we are capable of loving our neighbors.
How do we neighbor better? When you have neighbors who care, you are looking out for one another, and you celebrate the joy life brings. I thank God for my neighbors. I love them.
Imagine what our world would be like with caring neighbors. Guess what? It starts with you and me. We often look outside our windows and become concerned at the decline of trust, faith, and compassion in our world. You and I can be the difference makers. Do you really know your neighbors? Your mission field is right next door. Don’t miss it.