In our individualistic society, loving our neighbors has tended to go by the wayside. It’s not that we dislike them, but more accurately we don’t even know their names.
Sure, we might throw a hearty wave their way when we drive by their house, or while we’re out mowing our lawn, but the relationship more often than not stops there.
If we’re only concerned with our own families while having no heart for those living around us, then we are not living true to the 2nd greatest commandment as far as Jesus is concerned. And I’m not writing this from some position of judgment, our family lives isolated from our neighbors most of the time.
But we want to change that pattern! So let’s walk this out together. Here’s how we plan to tackle “loving my neighbors” this summer.
1) Break the ice, go introduce yourself
Maybe you’ve lived in your neighborhood for 2+ years or more and still haven’t heard what your neighbor’s voice sounds like. It’s ok, the fact that you waited so long to say hello can be your ice-breaker.
2) Walk your neighborhood with expectation
You may or may not be the type of person who prays – let alone goes on prayer walks. But I’d be willing to bet you yearn to help fulfill needs of your neighbors if you only knew what they were. So when you’re out walking your neighborhood, walk with expectation.
For the Christian, walking with expectation would mean having a silent conversation with God to show you where needs are, while asking Him to provide a way for you to help meet those needs. For everyone else, just walk with your head up and be in tune with your surroundings. Say hello and strike up conversations with neighbors as you pass by. Do your best to be welcoming, but it’s not on you if they avert their eyes or run and hide as they see you coming.
3) Find out if anyone has some basic needs (and help out where you can)
Now that you’ve gotten past “hello”, and you’ve been out walking your neighborhood with expectation, God has likely put specific houses on your heart where you know those neighbors have some basic needs that you can help meet. I’m not talking about signing checks over to them, but perhaps you can run to the grocery store for that elderly woman or single mom. Maybe there’s a family of young children and you can give some of your kids old clothes to them. It might be as simple as helping with basic yard work or a minor plumbing issue.
However, if you haven’t built a relationship with this person yet it will likely seem weird if you just knock on their door one day and ask if they need anything in their house fixed. In fact, if you’ve never even said hello they may think you’re trying to rob them! So get to know them first. As the friendship grows you will see plenty of opportunities to serve them over time.
4) Plan to meet at a community event together.
In Bangor, while the harsh winter tends to be a valid reason for not getting out and about. However, will all of the spring, summer, and fall activities you are not afforded that same excuse.
Whether it’s a Waterfront Concert or the American Folk Festival, make time to go places with your neighbors. It’s highly likely you’re both planning on going to an event like this anyway. If you end up going separately, when you see each other from afar you’d probably only give that awkward wave and smile. But if you plan to meet there suddenly you’ll become closer friends and share memories of that event together. Doing life together doesn’t have to be awkward.
5) Throw a neighborhood party (barbecue and/or potluck)
This one would likely be too much to tackle alone, but if you can get at least one or two other neighbors/families on board with this idea you’ll find the event will likely be a huge success. Be the life of the party, get to know everyone, use nametags if you have to. Have games planned, but don’t force people to participate in anything.
I’m looking forward to trying to pull this one off with my neighbors this summer. There’s a housing development of duplexes that are directly adjacent to my immediate neighbor and my properties, but we rarely see these people come outside unless they are traveling to and from somewhere. It’s on my heart to get to know these people!
Finally, the major thing to remember in all of this is don’t expect anything in return from anyone. Don’t do things for people expecting them to give you money, or serve you back. That’s not what “loving your neighbor” is all about.