This is a tribute to a very special street full of very special people…
We are told to love our neighbors. This can mean anyone who has a need, but it also means those in our actual neighborhood.
The street I live on is like no other. Currently, our church is doing a series on how to invest in our neighbors and being intentional in developing relationships with them. Our small group did an exercise to see how many neighbors we knew by name, other than, “dog-walker guy”. I won. I could name the adults and the children. Only 2 houses on our entire street did I not know, but one of those I could still name the kids.
We have a party for Halloween. A party for Christmas. And of course a party for Cinco de Mayo. On any random night, there are ladies sitting out on their porches drinking wine. My neighbor has been a life-saver for me on more than one occasion. If someone is sick, there’s a sign-up for meals. If someone has a loss in the family, we pitch in with cutting the grass.
This is a tight-knit community we stumbled upon a year and a half ago. And now it is even tighter. How many people tell their neighbors, “I appreciate you, and I love you.” I have. And I mean it. Tragedy has a way of doing that. Yes, a very tragic thing has happened.
One of our families is gone. Literally, the entire family is gone. The dad, the mom, the 10-year-old daughter, and the 8-year-old son all killed in a car accident. There is a void in our little community. Their truck sits there in the driveway teasing us that this is all a bad dream and they will be home later this evening.
This father and son are the ones who came over to introduce themselves when we were looking at the house. The son and my boys spent the rest of the time playing soccer in our not-yet yard. The boy was barefoot. He was always, always barefoot. We had not even put an offer on the house yet, and already we felt connected.
This son is who my son had his first fight with. They never held that against one another. They knew where the other one stood. And they forgave. And they forgot. Amidst all the laughing, trampoline jumping, Nerf-gun battling, fort building…they forgot their grievances, and just enjoyed one another. They were…friends.
I never got to know the parents or the daughter well. It was the little boy who stole the show with my boys, and on our street. He was a daily part of our lives. So much so that every night my 3-year-old prays for him and his mom and dad. She still does. I told her he doesn’t live there anymore. She asked where he lives now. I told her, “heaven”.
Continually my thoughts go to how merciful it was that they all went together. Those parents were totally devoted to their kids. Even to the point of building a Ninja Warrior course for his birthday, only to take it down the next week. Gotta be honest, there is no way I would do that. If either of the parents had survived without their children, I don’t think they could have borne it. Yes, merciful indeed.
Love your neighbors…
The timing of our church pressing the importance of community could not be any more appropriate.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Mark 12: 30-31, NLT
A lot of us hide behind the excuse that all of the world is our neighbor. We would rather donate to a child in Ethiopia than give to our neighbor’s Cub Scout Troupe. We’ll donate to a soup kitchen but won’t take a meal when our neighbor’s mother has passed away.
“And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29, NIV
And this isn’t wrong! Everyone can be our neighbor. I’ve heard this passage about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) explains that our “neighbor” is anyone who has a need. But what if we truly did invest in the lives of our actual neighbors?
Previously, I have felt reluctance to get close with neighbors because what if they see my crazy, and decide that we are “those” neighbors. But what if we can live out the crazy, being honest, and show them that Christ loves us, and them, despite the crazy?
Perhaps sharing life with our neighbors not only means we can extend love, but also perhaps we can receive love. I guarantee my neighbor can hear me when I blow my lid. How humbling, and freeing, that she still wants to be around me. To have my crazy exposed, and still be accepted? Hmm, that kinda sounds like grace.
It is because of this grace, this love in-spite of crazy, that I know I will always make space in my life for my neighbor. And room in my heart for a little, soccer-playing, barefoot boy. I hope you will do the same.