I’m afraid of my neighbors.
I think you would be too. They’re this awful family of six, four little boys all under the age of ten always running and laughing, a mom who loves to play baseball with the neighborhood kids in the cul-de-sac, a dad who goes out of his way to say hello when we’re coming in or out of the house.
I don’t know why, but every time my wife asks me to go to the neighbors for something, I get tense. These are hardly people to shy away from: I’ve never had a negative interaction with them, they’ve always been friendly, we appear to have a lot of the same interests and values, etc. But there’s something inside of me that wants to keep to myself.
I hate that. Growing up, I played every day with all the kids on our block. Football, hockey, baseball, tag, Pogs (remember those?); we did everything together. But somewhere along the way to adulthood, I turned into a typical little xenophobic suburbanite.
Lewis and Chesterton both talk at length about the need to learn to love our neighbors. It’s not people in foreign lands that we are asked to evangelize to, at least not at first: it’s those next door. Those that we see daily. Those that can hear us when we shout at each other or see us when we’re running out to the mailbox in our skivvies.
I find that really hard.
And as you can tell, it has nothing to do with them. They are really just about the best neighbors you can get. When I went over to ask for a half-cup of powdered sugar tonight for my wife’s amazing gooey butter cookies (remember, we’re still Easter-feasting), the mom scoured the pantry until finding the last bit of powdered sugar they had. And of course, she gave it to me.
We had a great conversation, too. We always do. But there’s some sort of hesitation that I have, some desire to ignore the outside world and just watch American Idol or read emails or write a blog (I used to be cool, I swear), that I need to get over. I need to let it die.
All around me, there are eternal souls walking about, images of the Eternal Godhead, infinitely complex and rich and deep persons, and I, more often than not, miss out on getting to know them more deeply.
Perhaps it’s a fear of not knowing what to talk about with them. Maybe it’s concern that I’ll interrupt something important or catch them at a bad moment. It could even be a pride thing, like I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weird for stopping by or annoying for asking them for stuff instead of going to the store.
Whatever it is, it’s gotta go. I need to do a better job of connecting with the people that are passing through my life. Because every time I do, I’m glad I did. I find it to always be a life-giving experience, which means it’s an experience of the Holy Spirit, an encounter with God. And that’s more than I can say about American Idol.