The neighbor comes a knockin’


My neighbor stopped by again today with her two young sons. She declared, “We just came for a visit.” I think she may get it. May get me.
Our last visit wasn’t so comfortable for either of us. I know it wasn’t a warm-fuzzy visit for me.
C and her husband moved into some servants’ quarters a stone’s throw from us. Her husband being the neighbor’s new gardener meant I walked by and waved when he was weeding, or he’d walk by and wave on his way home. For several weeks our paths crossed like this. Then one day on a packed bus heading to town, C (who I’d never met before) grabbed my arm when I went to sit down behind her. In soft-spoken siSwati, she told me about the vegetables she was selling. Trying to place her, I asked, “Where do you stay?” And “Im sorry you must have me confused. I don’t work for Johann.” Well dork am I because she didn’t think I worked for Johann either. Rather that her husband did! I didn’t discover this until she chased me down the next day in the Spar. As I looked at which onions to buy. She tried again, this time in slower siSwati.
OoO. She’s selling onions from her house and doesn’t want me to buy them here. Hah! Oops. She DOES know who I am, even if I didn’t recognize her. [Side note: I’ve learned that I’m very watched by Swazis and they have no qualms telling me they’ve been watching me. Awesome neighborhood watch folk are they.]
Doing the neighborly thing, I put down the grocery store onions, and walked home to buy from C. Anyone THAT committed to recruiting a customer with a product I use deserves a shot!
From there, she started asking for small favors. Could she please borrow a padlock, so her house is secure when they go away? Could I please buy a padlock for her in town when I go next? She would give me the money soon. And could she please ride with me to town, so she could visit her brother?
None of these things were huge requests, but I wondered how balanced our relationship would be if I was never needing or asking from her. Would she start to see me as her sugar momma? Was I setting us both up for disappointment?
My answer came soon enough. Saturday morning around 7, Sean and I were slowly starting our morning, when I heard, “Ekhaya!” Announcing a Swazi visitor at our door. There was C with her two cute boys.
This time she asked for a loan of about $2. Telling me how she has no food, no money, and he husband doesn’t have work. Very conflicted, I asked her to please wait while I spoke to my husband. (This very respectful-Swazi-way has saved my behind more than once. “First I must talk to my husband.” All the women understand we run things past our men, while I’m just glad for a sounding board before bumbling in over my head.) a quick conference with my Resident Guru and I told her.
“C, unfortunately, we cannot give you another loan. We have given you the loan for the padlock, and we can’t give another one. Im trying to respect you because if I can always give you a loan, then maybe your debt to me will become great. Then you won’t want to be seen by me. You will be afraid or embarrassed to see me because you may think ‘Aish! I still owe her some Rands.’ Then it may become difficult for us to be friends, and that is what is important to me. That we can remain friends and become better friends. I’m sorry.”
Inside my head, the monologue sounded like this: stupid. Stupid. Selfish. Stupid, Nicole. Are you really so greedy or self righteous that you won’t give her half a day’s wage? Are you refusing to give Christ a drink of cold water? And what the heck is wrong with you?!? Why are you mad at HER for coming to you begging? What’s your problem!
Look, self, I get you. I hear that you feel stupid. And selfish. And a disgusting, hypocritical pig. But you’ve also failed because you failed to engage C on her grounds. You haven’t thought about what ways she might help you: with your siSwati, tricks about chicken raising, or to hear her story. Because you’ve asked for nothing from her, you’re left with her only asking from you. She has a great smile and genuinely appears to be a hard-working, entrepreneurial woman, who lives 2 seconds away and keeps throwing herself into your life. Maybe you should take a hint. And share life with her. But keep the balance for now. Pray for a generous heart, a humble one too. Throw yourself on the floor, looking for answers about how to honor the Christ that lives in C, (even if she don’t know it yet!) in the way you treat her. Engage her with asset-based thinking, enquiring, “What are your gifts?” Instead of jumping to guilt (why is this even part of my equation? Guilt?! Why?) when you hear her story, seek a heart of love and goodness that simply receives her story. Don’t seek to be her answer so much, but trying joining her in the questions. Seek instead to know her, learn her talents, enjoy your laughter and become her friend. It is from this place that Life-gives and Brings. It is in this place that Jesus sits by the well to hear the Samaritan woman’s story. It is in this place you can both learn to love each other for who we are, while seeing the WE we can become with Christ’s continual grace and encourage ourselves onto the altar in all areas if our lives.
Yea. This visit went better. I remembered to ask her tips about my chickens and what behavior I should expect. She suggested their pen may be too small. She might be right… We talked about health, raising lots of kids, how her sons like playing with Thor, the market business she’s got going, and I might hold her extra cash while she gets a start, so her savings don’t get tapped into at whims. (Can I have someone do this for ME? My money isn’t safe in the bank.)
The change came in my heart, I think. I went from just responding to what she asks, to engaging her and asking. An exchange. Instead of a monologue. It’s true. This may get messy. I may have already screwed up, but maybe ill see that in time. And apologize in good fashion. Maybe she’ll quit coming around if I don’t give her many loans. But maybe we can get something better with each visit.
May I get out of the way, so the Divine Master has a chance to show off. And mostly because I’m hopes
Less without heaps of grace.

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Categories: Kingdom Coming Related, Public Confession | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The neighbor comes a knockin’

  1. Jeff Medders

    excellent that you for sharing you internal dialogue 🙂

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