Welcome back to Guest Post Wednesdays, which were on hiatus during Lent. Check out the “Guest Post” link above if you’ve got something you’re interested in sharing in a future week. Trust me, I’d love to feature your story! Remember that as a weekly initiative, it only works if you’re willing to share your own stories of community.
This week’s post comes to us courtesy of Heather Villa, who blogs about literacy here, and has a variety of interests. Reading marvelous books with her family are her most cherished moments. She shares freshly baked scones, indulges in occasional soy lattes, and spends time in flower gardens. Enjoy!
“Love your neighbor” is one of God’s commandments. Yet how many people take the time to get to know their neighbors?
One late winter morning, I answered the phone. My neighbor asked, “Are you okay?”
“Well, your curtains are usually open by now. They’re still closed.”
Admittedly, I didn’t open my curtains because I was in my pajamas. Typically, my family gets going early in the morning. My neighbor across the street noticed that something was different and checked on my family.
Each interaction with a neighbor reminds me that the relationships formed far surpass the fresh produce, homemade cookies, and shoveled snowy sidewalks.
I’m also reminded of a painful story that still breaks my heart. Several years ago, the newspapers that piled up in front of an apartment doorstep didn’t warn neighbors in Boulder, Colorado, that something was wrong. An unusual odor caused concern. Inside the apartment, a woman’s body was discovered. The obituary in the Daily Camera, the same publication that the woman received each morning, stated that the woman was a college student and that she ended her own life. The obituary also noted that the woman was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
I was the woman’s neighbor. I passed her in the hallway. More than once. Her distraught expression will always haunt me. I never took the time to know her.
A project of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank,” collected data in 2009 to determine how well Americans know their neighbors. The group reported that 19 percent of people knew the names of their neighbors, 24 percent knew most of their neighbors, and 57 percent knew some or none of their neighbors by name.
A sense of community needs to be restored, based on trust. Douglas Morris, author of It’s a Sprawl World After All, [New Society Publishers, 2009] notes that depression and loneliness may be the result of the breakdown of society.
However, people aren’t accustomed to someone reaching out to others without expecting something in return. Dr. Martin E. Marty, known for his discernment, explained in Building Cultures of Trust [Eerdmans, 2010] that trust, at a grassroots level, encourages a spread of honesty on a “culture changing scale.”
Additionally, one receives a physical benefit from knowing their neighbors. Eileen Bjornson, an assistant professor of sociology at Missouri University College of Arts and Sciences, researches how neighbors who know each other report better health.
We need each other. When we love our neighbors, life works.
Do you know your neighbors?