By: Kendra Broekhuis
My husband and I have long dreamt of having a home with a front door that doesn’t seem to close all the way. It’s a dream rooted in our belief that there are a few literal takeaways from the command to love our neighbors.
Over the past month, we have had the pleasure of meeting, inviting, and spending time with the kids who live close to us. Our house has been filled with extra shoes in the front entryway, extra bellies around our table, and extra laughing and arguing while playing board games on our living room floor. It has been all parts chaotic and joy-filled.
As I have shared my thoughts about attempting to live a life of neighborly love over the past couple of months, I have realized that many people desire this kind of connected living. Many want to live in a place that is more than just a bunch of isolated houses set neatly in rows. Many long to reach out and share Christ with their neighbors. All of us crave community – to love others and to be loved.
Yet, I think sometimes we bark up the wrong trees with our time and energy to find community and ministry. We invest in short term relationships – ones that happen during a week on a mission trip or an afternoon at an event put on by our church. But what if Christ’s love is much less high-tech, scheduled, or fancy than it is radically welcoming others into our everyday lives?
Today, I want to encourage those of you have the same Neighborhood Bug that we do, the same desire to share Christ’s love with the people who live next door. I have three suggestions to consider for creating community on your own street, and they are anything but complicated or swanky:
Be home. I realize this is not rocket science, but it is hard to get to know and attempt to love your actual neighbors if you are never in your actual home.
That first day the crowd of neighbor kids came over was about ten days after we moved into our new house. I remember thinking, “Husband and I should pray about who God might want us to meet in our neighborhood.” That very night, before any prayers left our lips, there was a knock at the door and five kids standing outside of it. We did nothing special besides being in our home to answer the door.
Rocket science or not, being home still requires sacrifices at times. Being home might mean saying no to other activities, holidays away, or outside commitments in order to be physically present in your own neighborhood. As I share in my book Here Goes Nothing, sometimes our overcommitted calendars “stretch us in too many unhealthy directions…I like committing to doing a few things well. I don’t like committing to a million things half-hiney. It’s not good for me, and it’s not good for the millions of people I’m half-hiney committed to either.”1 One way I am trying to be a better neighbor is by committing my hiney to being home more often.
Be visible. The location you live in does not impact your ability to be neighborly as much as your willingness to actually engage those you live next to.
For us, our street naturally becomes neighborly at 6:30 p.m. Adults come outside and sit on their front porches; kids get out their basketballs, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles; and we make a conscious decision to not hide inside our house or in our backyard.
Kristin Schell, author of the book and founder of the movement The Turquoise Table, has been a long encourager for us to become #FrontYardPeople. It’s the simplest act that reminds our neighbors that we are present and that we would love to share a Coke with them on these gorgeous summer evenings we’ve been having. Be in the front yard or on your front porch. Be seen, and therefore, let your neighbors know you are available.
Be inviting. While we make an effort to be home and to be outside, there are times we also need to put forth effort to make that first move.
This will always be the most difficult step for me, the one where I put myself out there to build new relationships with our neighbors. I often feel like I am the awkward love child of Middle School and Puberty when I first interact with people I don’t know. Yet, this step has also been the gateway to some wonderful interactions and friendships. This step stars with a simple, “Do you want to…?” And ends with something like, “…go to the park…ride bikes together…eat supper with us?”
And yes, this means having a front door that doesn’t seem to close all the way. I love how Craig Greenfield puts it:
You have heard it said, “A man’s home is his castle,” but I say to you, “A man’s home is his place of hospitality. His bedroom is his sanctuary.” I’m a little cautious about the common cultural practice of maintaining our homes as a “No-Go Zone” except for friends and family. I have experienced the beauty in other cultures of practicing radical hospitality in the home, and I have grown to love the Biblical value of welcoming those from the margins. In doing so, Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.” (Mt 25:25)
Sometimes neighborly living begins with a bunch of hotdogs, bubbles on the front porch, and a welcoming presence. Sometimes it is simply making a point to be available to the people around us. Sometimes it starts by being willing to let that prayer cross our lips: “Lord, who should we attempt to love in our neighborhood?”
Grace and Peace,
Kendra Broekhuis is a stay-at-home mom to two of her children by day, and an author by night. Her first book called, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor, was published in February 2017. She and her family live in the city of Milwaukee, still attempting to learn what Love Your Neighbor is supposed to look like. Kendra’s love language is Dove Chocolate.
1Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. Page 157-158