Monday, May 14, 2012

Shared Fences

My mom is/was a huge fan of Desperate Housewives. I sat with her the other day and we watched the last show. The women were gathered around a poker table, talking about all they had gone through together. One of the characters said that "many neighbors only share fences".

One of my neighbors has lived across the street from me for ten years. We never introduced ourselves to each other. There was just that awkward unacknowledgment of each other. All I knew was that my neighbor was a single mom with three boys. Over the years the neighbor's sons grew up and attracted an unfavorable group of friends. The result, gun violence. Who was the cause of this, I don't know. Was it my neighbor's sons or their friends? I didn't know, but I reacted. Did I talk with the neighbors to get their side of the story? Did I petition for more police patrol? Did I pray for them and love them as we are called to do? No, I took the easy road. I lifted a single blade from the blind of my window and made judgments. I stood behind the safety of my fence and pointed the finger.

Within time, the unfavorable group of friends moved away and things settled down. But the awkwardness and judgments made in fear and ignorance were still there. I felt the gentle guiding of the Lord to reach out to my neighbor. Day and night I rehearsed what I would say to her and thought of worst case scenarios. How should I approach her? Wildly wave at her as she drove past me as I "so happened" to be outside? Ring her doorbell and tell her I was there just to say 'hi'. No, something better, I'd bake some cupcakes, take them to her and say that my son wanted to give them to her. Kids always melt hearts, right? After all this, I did what I should have done in the first place and prayed. I asked God to give me the opportunity to talk to her and that He would give me an open door.

My open door flung wide open on Halloween night. My husband came home from work and said the neighbors were getting ready for a party because he saw them carry in a ton of ice. I was getting my boys ready to go out trick' er treating and I noticed that my neighbor was sitting outside with a huge bowl of candy. 'Here's your opportunity', whispered our Lord. So I crossed the street with Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear. My boys got their treats and I made small talk about her new dog. It was a brief conversation and right before I turned to leave, she reached into a large ice chest and asked if I'd like a water for myself and a juice box for my boys. She acknowledged the warm weather and all the walking we would be doing. I thanked her and took her up on her offer. There was no party at her house that night, just a bunch of trick'er treaters leaving with candy, water and juice.

My family and I learned a huge lesson and realized that we had been wrong in our unwarranted judgments. We believed that it was easier to judge and ignore. In the past few months my neighbor and I  have become really good friends. My neighbor is a really nice person with a very kind heart. I'm somewhat bummed that I missed out on having such a great friend for so many years. But I'm thankful that in the process that I learned something about myself and gained a great friend.

Life has been so much better now that we are neighborly with our neighbor. This enthusiasm has spread and eve gotten to know a few more of our neighbors. It's so much nicer to smile and wave an occasionally chit chat at the fence. It's so much better than standing alone in my own little yard, avoiding eye contact as the neighbor drives by.

All this got me thinking, how often do we keep ourselves in our own little yard? How often are we willing to share more than just a fence?

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