Day 280: Meet My Neighbor Down the Street

Good neighbors

After I moved back into my house, 18 months after the May 2011 tornado, I realized I had a new neighbor down the street. I would see her working diligently in her yard, or walking her dog, and I’d think, “I need to go introduce myself.” Yet, I didn’t. I’d wave as I drove by. Or she would smile as she walked by with her small dog, yet we never stopped to make a connection beyond the wave or the smile. English was not her first language but she was happy and friendly. I was drawn to get to know her, and yet I hesitated.

This year, in moving past comfort zones and a sense of inertia that can freeze me in place, I am moving beyond. I wanted to meet my neighbor and tell her how much I appreciate the flowers and trees in her front yard and the attention she gives them. With that intention, I looked forward to catching her in her yard and saying “hello” at last.

And then, in late spring, she left for an extended time. She has family in California and Mexico, her friend said, that she was visiting. People would come and go at her house, caring for her yard, but not as she does. The days stretched into weeks and then months. I wondered if I had missed my opportunity to get to know this quiet yet hard working woman.

Last week, she came home! I noticed first that the front yard gardens were looking well kept and freshened. And then I saw her and waved joyfully at her as I drove by. She smiled. Greg spoke to her and prepared the way for me, telling her I’d be visiting her to introduce myself. She said good, she could practice her English. Today, for my first, I at last ventured down the street to meet my neighbor. She smiled as I approached. Aware that she speaks only a little English, I spoke slowly. I welcomed her home. I told her I admired her yard and her flowers and how much time she puts into making her home and property look nice. She smiled. I smiled. She spoke with a beautiful accent and we agreed to get together soon and chat.

I invited her to come, soon, and see my garden in the backyard. We might be limited in the words we will use, but we both have a love of growing things and getting our hands into the warm earth. We both enjoy being outside and that joy can be shared without using many words. I can offer her tea, or we can simply sit among the riotous, glorious flowers and plants and enjoy the sunshine and breezes, the butterflies and bumble bees, and the signs of fall approaching. And…..we can smile.

morning garden e

Day 36: Meet My Neighbor


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!