I’ve always loved the feel of a close-knit community, being good friends with your neighbor, and knowing that borrowing a cup of sugar from time to time is welcome. I love seeing old black and white television reruns of days when the ice cream man was your friend, and women wore skirts and aprons, and everyone supported everyone.
Our family recently read the book Homer Price by Robert McCloskey aloud. What a feel-good, funny book it is. A strange woman comes into a shop and takes off her ring and digs in and helps make doughnuts and no one freaks out. It’s just a normal day. Homer, a young boy, catches criminals on his own with his pet skunk. Everyone knows everyone and everyone feels loved and an important part of the community.
In the book Applesauce needs Sugar by Victoria Case, there is a story of a family who lived in Texas. The father had a good job until he became very ill and bed-ridden. These were the days of groceries stores who let you buy as you wished and you had a tab that you’d pay on payday. With the father being so sick we couldn’t work and the family couldn’t pay their bill. After giving more than he wanted, the grocery store clerk cut the family off from “buying” groceries until their bill was paid. At this point, all the had left was one bag of cornmeal. Their prayers became more serious as they didn’t know how to get more food.
One afternoon, a neighbor came by to offer his apple orchard for picking. That was just the solution they needed to spark some ingenuity. Making barrels and pots full of apple butter and applesauce and with more help getting the sugar from the same grocery clerk, they settled their debts.
These recent stories were swirling in my mind when my fifteen-year-old son shared his related experience with me this week. Currently, we live in a massive, four-floor apartment building for large families in Germany. This building is one of a few on a small American post with a hometown feel. Living abroad six times in my life, I’ve been able to experience a close connection with the Americans around us “in the same boat”. We rely more on our neighbor and are more helpful to each other, and the energy around us is generally more friendly. The grocery store is five minutes away, “as the boy walks”.
I sent Benjamin with his toddler sister, Lamby, to the store to buy a small handful of items. I sent him with my debit card which he is now skilled in using. Apparently, he forgot the card and realized this while standing at the register with the total blinking on the screen. The cashier is there often and recognizes our family. The total was around $5 so she paid for it without batting an eye and told him to simply bring the money next time he came in.
So, many times, we are around people who are closed off, unfriendly, and unhelpful. When we become part of a community of people who are generous and loving it makes life so much more beautiful. But, I should also ask the question, are we closed off, too busy, or unfriendly too?
Sometimes in our fear of judgment of other people, we limit ourselves from the true joy of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We all want to be loved and to feel included in some way. It’s also nice to be remembered.
Here are a few simple ways to get to know your neighbors a little better:
- Learn more about them.
- Remember their names and the names of their children.
- Include them in your family time or free time to talk.
- What do they do for a living?
- Find out ways you can support them in this—such a refer friends and family to them.
- Add them to Facebook
I sometimes think I was born at the wrong time. I would love to live in days of castles, knights, Donna Reed, Colonial times, Recency Era, and other notable timeframes in history. However, there are so many abundant blessings that are available to us that weren’t thought of yet in days gone by. And, I have had many good neighbors and friends who have made my life lighter and more joyful. I hope I can also learn to be a better neighbor too.
(originally written in 2014)