I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor? – Mother Teresa
Interesting how certain themes tumble around and pop out of the dryer of life around the same time. You’d never thought about that green Gap shirt and all of a sudden, it keeps making it’s way into the clean clothes pile.
Just this week, I had confessed to Sean how much it bothered me that I didn’t know the surname to our next door neighbors.
“Hah! I don’t know their surname, much less who lives there! I couldn’t pick them out of a crowd,” I sadly omitted. I realized all this after the meter-reader showed up at my house, asking when he might find the family home who stays in the blue houses. I sort of conjectured, and then commiserated with him about the big, scary pack of dogs that keep anyone from entering the gate. But I realized, all of my neighbors could tell Meter-Reader Man when to find me home. Or they’d personally deliver a message that he came looking for me. They would also seriously inquire as to who this stranger is asking about the neighbors’ schedule and how many people live there (ok, I made that last part up from the movies, but crazy-killers are legitimate, right?). I did ask enough questions to semi-conclude he wasn’t a serial killer. I did conspicuously watch him approach our other neighbors’ house, but I could not tell him their schedule because I did not know it.
The only things I knew were:
– they have bright blue buildings that do make me smile when I see them.
– they have wild, ready-to-eat-your-face dogs who terrify me when Thor and I go for walks
– she (the woman) seems to be without a husband. She sells bread, which I tried to buy once, but no one answered at the gate and aforementioned dogs scared me off.
-She also runs a shebeen (an Irish word), an informal pub or illegal seller and brewer of alcohol place.
As that dryer and green Gap shirt would have it, I gave HER, my blue-house-neighbor a ride yesterday. I didn’t know it was her, but I knew she lived close because only Masini folk sit under that tree.
She immediately asked, “Where’s your baby?” I looked in the rearview mirror. Nope, don’t recognize her. She knew I had a baby, but I didn’t know her name.
I dove in to make a fool of myself, like I always do when meeting a new face in Masini. Of course it’s easy to know ME. I’m the only white chic who lives here and one of the few vehicle-owners in our village. So I dove. Apologizing. My questions clearly showed I didn’t know her, her homestead’s surname even, but I hoped my smile might bring some forgiveness on her end.
What a fruitful conversation! I not only learned her name, but who lives with her, her methods of income and how she feels about them, some things that trouble her, how proud she is of her dogs (aren’t we all?!), and how likeable of a woman she is. I’m genuinely looking forward to talking to her more. Just by listening to her, I started caring for her. Thinking how our community might help her find new income sources she’d prefer. It’s funny how that happens. Once you know somebody, if you’re half- human, you start caring about them.
How crappy do I feel that I’m a Christian who’s all about “love thy neighbor like you love your sassy self, Nicole” and “live in intentional pursuit of those in my community”, and I don’t even know her name.
And then, on Facebook, The Simple Way shares that quote from Mother Teresa. Green Gap shirt. Popping out of the dryer. Showing up in the clean clothes pile.
Pay attention, y’all. It’s Mother Teresa. Even if it’s been a year (like me), or 20, act the fool and at least figure out a few things about your neighbor. Then I dare you not to care.