Growing My Neighborhood Circle
by Margot Starbuck
A few years ago, when one of my elderly neighbors had been hospitalized for a broken hip, my kids and I made a get well poster for her. I’d knocked on the door of almost every neighbor on my block to have them sign the poster before I realized that I’d spelled Miss Virginia’s name wrong. In huge 3-D block letters I’d written, “We love you, Miss Virgina!” Nice, right?
Weirdly, loving our new neighbors is the reason my family moved to our current home, which is in a socio-economically diverse neighborhood, four years ago. Because sharing life with our neighbors has been such a blessing to our family, I’m now a big fan of investing in a circle of relationships wherever you live. Here’s what building bridges with our neighbors has looked like for my family:
When my children have outgrown their toys or when I’ve purchased way too many craft supplies, we have shared them with a neighbor who has younger children. Last summer, that neighbor brought us squash from her grandfather’s garden.
Grad students and their significant others share meals with our family. After a few years of doing life together, they’ve cared for our kids and have given us rides to the airport. One student even invited us to a gig where he performs as a singer-songwriter.
One young working woman on our block is mentoring a girl from a difficult home situation. Because this mentor didn’t grow up in the U.S., we explained Halloween to her and helped the two of them participate in it. Also, with that mentor, we found a summer camp that offers scholarships for local girls.
One woman on our block was caring for an aging parent at home. When her mother finally needed nursing home care, my kids and I went to visit her there.
To celebrate the birthday of my son’s kindergarten teacher, students were each asked to bring in one flower for a bouquet. Since I am ill-equipped to sustain plant life, my son and I asked a gifted gardening neighbor for a flower. She was delighted to help.
One day, when my kids and I started making cookies, we discovered that we had no eggs. The kids were thrilled when I gave them the important job of knocking on door after door until they found a neighbor who would lend us two eggs.
Too often we try to live self-sufficiently, and building a circle in our neighborhood helps remind us the importance of sharing life with others. Whether it’s offering a ride to a birthday party, borrowing sugar or lending a mower, neighborhood circles are built as we serve one another in love.
*Hint: Don’t expect folks will know how to do this intuitively. You will model interdependence as you ask to borrow a rake or baking soda or a DVD. Then, one of these days there might just be a knock on your door!
Margot Starbuck is the author of the forthcoming Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor (InterVarsity Press, 2012). She lives and loves in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and three children.