“People were absorbed in their handhelds, their heads, the four walls of their houses.” –Tsh Oxenreider
The weather here has been absolutely perfect the past couple of days. The sunshine we have had has been a massive shot in the arm to the very long winter we’ve had. We have come home from school and stayed outside and played Monday and Tuesday and it has been glorious. I’ve noticed some strange things going on in the neighborhood though. Something that has challenged me on my thinking of our little community. An assault so to speak.
Some background: of the 35 years I’ve been alive, I have lived in 2 neighborhoods. The one I grew up in and the one I started my married life in. We’ve moved back to the neighborhood that I grew up in, so for 26 years I’ve lived in this one place. To say I know the neighborhood is an understatement. But to also say I don’t know the neighborhood is true too.
I went outside to get something out of the van when I look over to voices I hear at my neighbors house. I see my neighbor talking to someone at her front door…to another neighbor. My first thought is, “What did the boys do?” My next thought was that something was wrong. Like they were hashing out an issue or a problem. I listen a little more intently and here words like, “sermon” and “Sunday” and put together that maybe the one neighbor is sharing the Lord with her. She does however work at our local Baptist church. My next thoughts were, “I wonder what’s wrong? Why are they talking to each other? Did someone die? How did she know? What’s going on?!” Then I realized that’s what neighbors used to do. They used to talk to each other, gather on front porches, talk of the days events. What has happened to the art of being neighborly?
Here’s another example…We were all outside playing when someone is driving by and suddenly stops and gets J’s attention. Again, my first thought went to, “they are complaining about the boys…they must have done something while playing in the woods. Maybe they took something off their front porch…maybe that’s the wife of the man who pulled out in front of J and they had words in the middle of the road (wow, another story, ugh), maybe she’s complaining about our little man holding a flag that says, “SLOW, Children at Play.” Why on Earth would our neighbor be talking to us?!” Come to find out she was telling him that she saw a coyote in her backyard and we needed to keep an eye out, especially with the kids. Wow. That was nice. And we DO have some neighbors who are great. Neighbors haven’t always been nice. We have neighbors who, in an attempt at being “helpful” were really being nosy busybodies…
Knocking at the door
Oh, hello neighbor from down the hill…Um, I see you’ve left your car idling in the the middle of the road, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I see your son sitting in the truck bed, and me being a grandpa (because that qualifies one to butt into others business) I think he ought not to do that.”
“Okay, thank you for sharing…bye bye now.
Or the elderly neighbor across the street who thinks the baby shouldn’t sit in the grass.
Or the lady down the hill who drives too fast past our house and for two days in a row knocks the flag out of our “SLOW, children at play” man’s hands. AND THEN CALLS THE POLICE! On US!! What the heck?!
Or the other neighbor who stops to tell me that she thinks my daughter needs a coat on….
Am I being too sensitive? Are they being genuine and I’m being the ugly one? Because it’s these people who make me want to fulfill my life’s dream and move out to the country where we have NO neighbors and the kids can run naked in February if they want to.
But it also makes me miss the days where in the same neighborhood, we’d have concerts at the end of the street in the summer time. Or all gather together and watch heat lightening while all of us kids rode our bikes. Or went to Mary Kay parties at the neighbor’s house. I have so many good memories of a different time, not so long ago, where a community was all you had. You didn’t have to worry about getting a knock at the door because your kid rode their bike through someone’s yard.
No joke, I had several neighbors who, when I had P, had no idea that I’d had a baby. Didn’t know it until May! She was almost 3 months old by the time they knew I was pregnant much less had the thing! How have we become so disconnected? Retreated deep into our homes. Protected by the four walls. So absorbed into our own selves that we can’t even see the person across the street?
Or the person in our own home. I hate the fact that I feel utterly lost at work or church when I leave my phone at home. And that I carry it around like an oxygen tank during the evening. Like it’s the very thing I cling to for my last breath. I want to be present in my moments at home. With my people. The ones who really matter. I survived for so long with out my device, 30+ years. But my family? I couldn’t survive without them. I certainly don’t want to grow these 4 sweet children of mine only to see the tops of their heads. It must begin with me.
Today. It will. I will make an effort to disconnect from the temporal so as to connect with the now that really matters. For I don’t want this to be how I am remembered. By my family, my neighbors, my friends…
“I wager it’s partly because in my default mode, I have no time for other people. I’m too busy.” Tsh Oxenreider