During my latest travels through a pretty standard workday, while listening to the radio, I caught a segment of the Diane Rehm Show that was discussing a book written on the topic of community. The book, titled “In The Neighborhood” by Peter Lovenheim, followed the author as he attempted to engage those living in his neighborhood. His hope was to actually get to know “that guy living across the street.”
During the conversation, the author revealed that his interest was initially sparked by a murder suicide that took place on his street in Rochester, NY. As details came out about the incident, it became apparent to Mr. Lovenheim that he, quite literally, lived among a community of strangers, and had done so for several years. While his interest seemed relatively common, he set out getting to know his neighbors by asking them if he could sleep over! Okay, I know, I would probably have the cops knocking on my door if I asked my neighbor if I could sleep over, and rightly so. However, there were several that took him up on this offer. By documenting every little idiosyncrasy in their daily lives, he truly became acquainted.
As you can probably guess, the author developed relationships with people that were no less than astonishing. Whether the revelations were shocking or relatively benign, he could reference those that lived around him as not just mere neighbors, but more so as friends.
Naturally, as I listened to this broadcast, I started thinking about my “neighbors.” I knew their names and maybe even a little bit of their story, but for the most part, they were still strangers. Now, as a man of faith, it would be an understatement to say that a large part of my life should be spent developing relationships with those around me. Taking that one step further, I am a father that is supposed to be living that out in front of my daughters. Not only was I neglecting the enrichment of relational investments, but I was missing huge opportunities to teach my girls to do the same. Suffice it to say that I felt like a monstrous slacker!
Consequently, my wife and I (and our daughters) have now had two consecutive nights investing our time in some of the people that we see nearly every day. It’s as if we were meant to do more than make it from our car in to our house without making eye contact!