Living as a Neighbor during Advent

In our worship gathering last Sunday we spent time around tables thinking about ways we could live “questionably” as neighbors this Advent season. Here are some of the ideas people shared.

  • “Candy Cane Bomb” someone’s front yard. Basically, t.p. their house and yard with candy canes and then ring the doorbell and run.
  • Call a family member you haven’t talked to in awhile out of the blue.
  • Invite neighbors or co-workers to service projects
  • Invite others to go sledding whenever you are headed out yourself
  • Pass out cookies
  • Hot apple cider in the front yard
  • Christmas lights contest on your block with a cash prize
  • Christmas caroling (and you could share what Christmas means to you)
  • Rake someone’s yard or shovel their driveway
  • Caroling/hayride in a pickup truck
  • Caroling at a retirement community or children’s cancer ward in a hospital
  • Grill in your front yard (hey, it’s still warm in Colorado!)
  • Invite someone to a Christmas show like the Nutcracker
  • Pick a weekly focus for yourself or your family (For example, choose to “favor others” in a given week. Talk about it in the morning and debrief how you were able to do it in the evening)
  • Ask neighbors to join you in hosting an event

What other ideas do you have?

Reacting to “The Art of Neighboring”

book-coverA few weeks ago we challenged our church to read The Art of Neighboring as we consider what it means to live “questionable lives” as neighbors. If you’ve started reading it, I’m wondering how you’re reacting to it. Let me share one of my reactions.

(Even if you don’t want to read mine, leave a comment with your reaction to what you’re reading!)

As I read the book I found myself wondering how much time is “enough” to pour into my immediate neighborhood and neighbors. Like many areas in life, this is one where there is always more I could do. I could knock on someone’s door, bake cookies, work on a neighborhood directory, start neighborhood dinners, rake leaves, and so much more. But neighborhood isn’t the only aspect of life where I want to be investing. I want to do my job well, have time with my family, give myself to our church community, and even pursue some hobbies. So how do I find the right balance? A few things that are helping me think about that…

It helps to live an integrated life.

When I separate all the things I listed above it becomes almost impossible to think about giving significant time to anything. But if I start overlapping, or integrating, some of these things it gets a little better. I can enjoy a hobby with neighbors or people from church. I can include our Community Group in a neighborhood block party. We could host dinners where we include people from all different parts of our life. Even with this I know I have to make some decisions, but at least viewing my life as an integrated whole helps me see how I could engage more of these good things.

I have to admit I’m limited.

I thought it was interesting how in the book they talked about focusing on people in the neighborhood who want to connect in return. They also talked about how you’ll be close to a few and just on a friendly basis with others. I don’t want this to be an excuse to avoid neighbors who seem more difficult, but maybe it’s better for me to be a really good neighbor to a few than a so-so neighbor to everyone. I don’t want to excuse myself from finding space to be a good neighbor, but I agree with them that I don’t need to put pressure on myself to be close to everyone.

I think knowing people matters.

Even with the neighbors I don’t see often, I think it’s really good to at least know them as acquaintances. Then, when needs arise in their lives there’s at least some relationship to work from. We have a family in our neighborhood where a man got cancer. We don’t know them well, but because we’d had a few conversations with them they were open about it when we saw them. They didn’t want a lot of help, but we were able to pray for them, check in on how things were going, and to make a meal. That basic relationship mattered.

So what’s your reaction?