Recently, I joined a book club called Beyond the Pages started by one of my friends and mentors, Destiny DeHaven. The first book we are reading is “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown (www.brenebrown.com). I have been on a journey for three years exploring trust and vulnerability personally, as parent and practice applying it to the world at large. After reading the introduction, I began reflecting on my village.
When I speak of my village I am including our neighbors. It sounds old fashioned, circa 1950’s, and I’m completely serious. We have some incredible neighbors, not just one or two but a community. On our block alone there are 10 households with people of all ages who interact on a regular basis, often standing in the middle of the street chatting or catching up on each other’s lives. One of our immediate neighbors just created a dog door for our dog to visit whenever he pleases. Now I realize that’s a bit extreme, but this neighbor and our dog are soul mates. Nonetheless, this is our reality.
I can walk several blocks in multiple directions and be familiar and friendly with any of a dozen families. Maybe it’s our area, or being in a climate that causes us to be outside, even in the rain. If you live here long enough you’ll become water resistant, like Scotchguard. Some families we only see at the local park when it snows. Earlier in the week, there was an amazing sunset and lighting storm, and I ran into a group of neighbors and their kids on the sky bridge. We all went there for a better view. Okay, now I’m picturing high heels and an apron. I say all this to underscore the value of neighbors.
We watch out for one another. We look after each others’ kids, pets and gardens. We’ve hauled, shared rental equipment, lent muscle power, built fences and big toys, passed down outgrown clothing, exchanged recipes, protected each other, offered first aid, called 911, cried and celebrated together, and simply listened. Whenever I have thought about moving or needing a bigger house it’s all of these people that keep me right here. Many of us have added on to our homes to avoid moving. These people welcomed us when we got the keys to this, our first home; came over to welcome the birth of our child, and they have contributed to his life more than some of our own family.
As I worked in the yard one evening, I listened to another Dad teach my son, Morgan, how to play catch with his two boys. This neighbor used the same patience and care he used with his own children.
Another neighbor hires Morgan to care for her cats and do yard work when she leaves town. She even has plans to hire him to mow the lawn next summer. He’s learning work ethics, customer service, and money management 50 feet from his front door. The best part is that Morgan is growing up knowing that good neighbors are a normal and important part of life, and he’s learning to be a part of a community.
I know without a doubt that if we ever were faced with a crisis each one of our neighbors would be right by our side. I reflect on this a lot, especially reading the news stories about whole communities rallying and lending “a helping hand”. It helps me sleep soundly knowing that we live in one of those communities, and I am deeply grateful.
Have you met your neighbors? Do you pull in your driveway and go straight inside without looking around? You could be surprised by how much you have in common with your neighbors. Often we have much more that connects us than divides us. In an effort to live a daring greatly life, I challenge you to take a risk, and extend a hand to your neighbor. It just might change your life.
Photo Credit: Johnny Ainsworth