I remember when I was a kid, the neighborhood really was a community. We all knew each other and watched out for each other. Swarms of kids roamed from house to house. Moms chatted over a cup of coffee or borrowed some necessary ingredient for a cake. In the evenings whole families gathered for horseshoes and cook outs and cold drinks.
I’m not sure when that culture changed. I barely know my neighbors. I wave at the family across the street. I know my neighbors to the north. They’ve been here longer than I have. And yet I barely speak to them, as wonderful as they are. The house to the south is empty and has been since May 22, 2011. The tornado that hit Joplin tore through my neighborhood. The houses on my side of the street, though battered and damaged, remained standing. The houses across the street, and beyond, were all destroyed. Many of my neighbors left that day, never to return. There are still empty lots on my street. And there are new houses and new neighbors too, that I have yet to meet.
Today, choosing to stay at home because of icy roads in Joplin, I pondered what my first would be for the day. My planned activity would need to wait because of the weather. As I was looking through my list, and opening myself to possibilities, the first literally came to me. He knocked on the door. One of my goals for this year is to meet each of my neighbors whom I’ve not met before. I see them outside and I wave and smile. And yet I don’t know their names or what they do or what brings joy or sorrow into their lives. I intend to change that. And to get to know better the neighbors I have met and lived beside for years.
How amazing when a first appears for you, at the perfect time. My neighbor and I chatted. He had observed that a little family of stray cats had been eating on my front porch and he laughed when he saw that they now live in my house! It is very cold, after all, and my soft heart couldn’t bear for them to be outside. He offered cat food, at a greatly reduced price. How thoughtful. He had even written down the kinds of cat food he had available and how much of it.
I am ready to be more a part of my neighborhood. The tornado didn’t take that away from me. I have denied myself the pleasure of being in community. I am thinking of ways to connect with my neighbors. And I look forward to introducing myself to everyone. One neighbor met….six more to go!