Once upon a time, we moved to a new neighborhood in a well-established subdivision in town. It was a very pretty area, and was a good location to raise our family. Like some other neighborhoods we had lived in, people didn’t communicate much with their neighbors. Oh sure, we met a couple neighbors at the mailbox or while walking the dog, but we didn’t hang out with them. One couple across the street, who had kids the same age as ours, told us, “Oh, we don’t get involved in neighborhood activities. We keep to ourselves”. Another neighbor invited us over for a beer on their porch a couple times, short visits that were nice enough. But we never got around to inviting that couple over for a barbecue, to get to know them better. We lived there ten years, but made few connections.
Then a few years ago, our kids left the nest, and we bought an old place in the “country”, where parcels are measured in acres. You can’t see the houses around you, as it’s fairly wooded. Before we could move in, we needed to renovate the 100-year-old farmhouse and barn, so we were the subject of some curiosity. That summer, we’d be outside working on the barn, and people who had lived in the area for a long time stopped by to say, “So you’re fixing up the old Shabart place, huh?”. They would tell us where they lived, and tell us stories about our old property. Rick and Gail have lived across the road for over 35 years. Warm and helpful people, they came over regularly to check on our progress and offer help.
We finally moved in at the end of October, and in December we received an invitation in the mail for Rick and Gail’s annual neighborhood Christmas party. “Bring a dish to pass, and your favorite beverage.” We showed up at the party and found a very full house, with what seemed like every neighbor for miles around. Most of these people had been coming to the event every year, and most seemed to know each other. Kind of like a wedding or funeral, where you see your everyday friends and family, as well as the folks you only see at like events. There was a horrible blizzard going on that night, but nobody was going to let that stop them from coming to the “reunion”. We got introduced around, and we told our story many times. We also heard their stories, and we wished we could have remembered every name. These neighbors made us feel accepted with the kind of old-fashioned hospitality that modern life rarely accommodates.
Neighbors like Rick and Gail have shown us the value of seeking out and actively maintaining relationships in our community. It was their grace, not our initiative, that helped us out of our shell. Now we invite neighbors over to eat. We go riding with local horse-friend Cindy, and stop to talk with people nearby. Some kids in the area know it’s OK to stop in on a weekend afternoon and brush the horses. We are farther apart in distance from our neighbors than we ever have been in our lives, but feel more connected to the people around us than anywhere else we have lived.