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31 Days of Free Writes : Neighbor, 31 Lessons : Know Your Places and Your People

It always strikes me with irony that most people don't know their neighbors.  Well maybe its just younger busy couples or people. People my age or bracket.
People rush in and out to and from places, and its usually our neighbors that we glance at as we take out recycling or hear through open windows.
But do we know them? And do we ever reach out in friendship? Or care?
I remember being very connected to the neighbor hood kids that congregated at our house growing up.
My mom was that neighborhood mom.  You know, the mom whose house the kids all flocked to?  The house with the snacks, the crowded basement, and the baseball games and sprinkler runs down the back yard slope?
I have a very funny memory of my mom's summer game of 'Kitchen Window'  A game she came up with for kids to try to get tennis balls into her small second story kitchen window. (While she was cooking dinner)  I don't know how it started but if we could actually make a tennis ball into the second story window without her playing goalie and deflecting  it with her roll of aluminum foil we won the game.  When you are very short and small it takes awhile to make it in there :) The neighborhood kids loved this game and my quirky mother.
She always let us "Play".  An allotted time.  Usually a two hour time frame that ended promptly at 5 during the week day before my dad arrived home from work.

This summer my own family and I moved back to our "old house" that feels new to us again and our street is swimming with kids.  When we left and only had one buddy to play with, but now there are several.
In fact today my front yard was dotted with a mosaic of freshly fallen brown crunchy leaves and ten bare foot children.  *Some were mine of course.
I have found myself enjoying my brief chats with the neighbor moms or our beloved next door neighbors.  It gives a sense of home and security when you share love and life with neighbors.
You take thick slices of cake across the grass on china plates and share the love.
You exchange simple Christmas gifts or wreaths.
You help move in furniture or clear off sidewalks
You look after each others pets
You offer ice cream cones to kids dripping puddles of cream all over the front stoop.  Or hot chocolate and marshmallows across the chain link fence on cold days.
You walk across the sidewalk waving at each other and asking about life.
You sit on each other's back deck and eat hamburgers and watch each other's kids chase the summer night lights of fireflies...
You pray for them. I have been so blessed by hearing my kids lead their dad and I in prayer for their neighbor friends.
(And yes sometimes we have those difficult neighbors that we avoid at all costs, or sometimes we can become that annoying neighbor or are that neighbor of angst)
It takes intentionality, but being a friendly neighbor and knowing the people if possible that actually live next to your own patch of grass is important.
While we were gone for the year and few months, my favorite neighbor, a 94 year old man died.
Today as I watched my newly walking one year old stumble across the falling magnolia leaves and hand me a waxy yellow one I was sad that I couldn't look out and watch my elderly neighbor sipping his rose colored wine and hear him tell me again me how lucky I was to have "those kids and please tell them I love them. God love them. But tell me you aren't having any more. " His constant slightly slurred five o clock refrain, his eyes misty.

The word neighbor also makes me think of neighborhood and that extends past just the "hood" or whatever you live in.  It's good to know the actual area and town you live in.  To find things within your city to explore, be a part of, and enjoy.
It's something that kind of automatically happens from being a part of the work force or your kid's school or a local church, but many times in the rush of life we have to be intentional to actually know the places we live.
For example, I remember when a cousin of mine came up to visit when I was in grade school.  He told my parents he was visiting a natural bridge that he had heard was near our home.  The funny thing was my family hadn't visited the bridge in so many years that we couldn't even remember it.  My cousin drove about three hours and took my sister and I to a place that was in close proximity to our home that we hadn't frequented. He took lots of pictures of a place we just knew by the billboards we passed on the interstate.
Isn't it funny that the places we are near are many times the places we don't come to know.
They are near and 'reachable' and so many times we never venture to go.
We aren't intentional.
Where's a spot in your places of life that you know and love? The you have intentionally scoped out or perhaps stumbled upon? ( I can think of a park my husband and I frequented in the town we went to college in, it was a special place that always reminds me of us and young love).
A place that deepens the richness of experience of living where you do? (This weekend we will go hiking to the same place we go every October, all together because it's what we do and it is a seasonal rhythm)
A place that brings you joy that is near you? A place that has finger printed your family? (That place that you all prefer for a thin and crispy pizza or where you want to Saturday morning breakfast?)
Or a place interwoven into the memories of your family yet connected to your community?

This topic of knowing that which is near made me think of the people in our own homes.  The people that we are supposed to know the most yet sometimes know actually the least.
Do we make an intentional effort to actually know the people we share a bathroom with, a bed with, and a spin cycle with?
How do we practice intention with these neighbors so that they never become drifting strangers floating away on one sofa as we are isolated on another in the same room?
Intention is the force but there are so many different ways to achieve this knowing. Ways that fit you personally.
 I've started to play a silly game with my husband that has this desire behind it, to know someone more that I think I already fully know...
Even though we have known each other now half our lives almost I ask to be told something he likes, wants, or enjoys and something he remembers that I don't know about. That is unrelated to me and the him I knew and know.  The him that was before me and separate of me.  That I might know Him. And keep knowing Him. That I might keep knowing the growing Him that isn't the same Him I used to know.
It's a fun game and kind of surprising. With poignant responses and unexpected funny ones too.

Finally, knowing that which is near reminds me of this verse in Acts 17:26-27
"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though he is not far from each one of us."

God has set us in these places at these times with these people and with these boundaries that we should seek Him and find Him and know Him.  And He is near, not far from each one of us.  He's on the street where we live, the home we share, the witness to every thought, dream, and whisper of our heart.
Do we make intention to really know that which is within the realm of our touch?  The natural elements, the family, friends, and the God?
Do we rush past the familiar, obvious, the always there for something else and miss out on the rich here?
We all do, without intention.

This was when I was just getting to know my husband.  Many years ago.
 I'm sorry we let that wane.  But we have started again :) And it is fun 


  1. Beautiful post, Sommer. I should go across the street and say "Hi" to my neighbor.

  2. Hey Somer ... thanks for the gentle reminder that those houses around our neighborhood have people inside that might be looking for what we have to offer.

    What a good prompt you've given us, friend ...


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