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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Love Your Neighbor

Our church's children's department kicked off their annual food drive for the Salvation Army last Sunday. H has really gotten into it both this year and last year, taking our wagon and going up and down our street asking our neighbors for food for the Salvation Army. It's a good project for preschoolers, and something the girls are really taking pride in, collecting food for people who don't have enough, and we want to encourage their spirit of missions. However, it is kind of uncomfortable for us as adults going door to door asking for food, even though it is for a good cause, and it caused Ted and I to talk about how we are doing with loving our neighbors. God commands us to love our neighbors (it isn't optional!), but what does that look like? We try to be friendly to our neighbors, waving across the street, making small talk about the weather, helping to shovel once in awhile, etc. We deliver cookies at Christmas and jellybeans at Easter, but what else could we be doing to cultivate relationships with them? We don't live in a neighborhood full of little kids or young families, which is more my comfort zone. I know how to reach out to parents of young children because we have something in common. But parents of teenagers, empty nesters, and retirees are out of my comfort zone. I want to love my neighbors, but I find it hard to love them when I barely know them. Any practical ideas that have worked for you in building relationships with your neighbors? Please leave comments!


Cap said...

Hey Jess.

Living in an apartment full of disabled or elderly myself, I can tell you it's easier than you're making it out to be. Older people are still people, just a little slower and wrinklier. I've made some good friends in my apt.

Anyway. You have it easier because you have little kids. Elderly LOVE little kids, and they also love to be useful. See if any of them are alone a lot of the time and ask if they wouldn't mind sitting for half an hour or something while you run to the store. It's really unfortunately, but a lot of older people don't see their children and grandchildren very often, maybe a few times a year. Ask those with teenagers about sitting too.

And stop thinking that it's uncomfortable to go around asking for food. Go with Hope and your girls and make it a time to meet the neighbors too. Say hi, introduce yourself, say something about the weather, mention you're on mommy patrol or keeping them company or getting some excercise. If no one bothers to extend themselves, none of you will ever get further into future relationships. See if there are any neighborhood things, like book clubs or knitting circles or something, see if any of them would be interested in having group garage sales.

As you might (or might not) remember, I was never afraid to make myself look stupid in high school. I figured life was too short not to do what I wanted, even if it looked really dumb to other people. If you know it's right and want to do it, then do it. Don't be afraid of how it looks. Get out there!


Jessica said...

Thanks for the great advice, Kerri. I know you are right!! I found it funny that you ended your post with "Get out there!" because that is the slogan they use a lot in the Children's Ministries in our church. I need to take that advice! I guess I felt like if someone wanted to babysit my kids, they'd offer. I never thought of asking them first... We do have neighbor girls we've been using to babysit more, but I haven't gotten to know their parents much, other than occasional chit-chat.

Here was a suggestion from another friend: "why not invite some of them over for dinner. You could even say something like, "we've lived here X years and we really don't know you that well. How about coming over for dinner next date?""

Thanks for your encouragement, both of you, to "get out there"!

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