WSN: Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

To coin a phrase from Sesame Street, “Who are the people in your neighborhood”? How many of us know our neighbors, on both sides of our home, those behind us and across the street? To visualize this, make a tic tac toe pattern and put yourself right in the middle. How many of the remaining boxes can you fill in with the corresponding neighbors’ names, their family, what they do for a living, their life circumstances?

There is a book by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon called “The Art of Neighboring”. It talks about building relationships right outside your front door. The grid idea was given to help visualize your neighborhood. After doing this exercise at over 1000 churches across the country they found that only 10% of people can give the first and last names of all the neighbors in this grid. The book continues asking the question, what meaningful information do you know about these same neighbors, like career goals, background, family dynamic? Only 1% could give anything meaningful they knew about their neighbors. What if we were conscious about taking that first step? What would life in our community look like if we broke down the fear, isolation and misunderstanding that comes from not knowing our neighbors? Would we start to develop more patience for our neighbors if we understood their struggles? What if there was an emergency and we felt comfortable asking a neighbor for help?

These are the ideas that I challenged my Block Connectors to find out over the next few months. I want to see what happens when we are intentional about knowing our neighbors and inviting them into our lives. Letting go of the busyness and taking an extra minute to say hello, introduce yourself and start to build a relationship. We know that Jesus commanded us in Mark 12:31 to “ love your neighbor as yourself”. What if He meant to love our actual neighbor? We love our neighbors across the ocean and those we support through our missions. We love on those in our community through offering our resources to agencies that help those in need. What about those right next door to us? What are their circumstances and how can we love them?

I asked my Block Connectors to look for simple ways to find out more about their neighbors. Not in a way that is intrusive or disrespectful of someone’s privacy. I suggested maybe as they are taking a walk, look for an opportunity to say hello. Out working in their yard is another good way to reach out. Maybe they are in need of an edger that they do not own. Ask a neighbor to borrow one. The neighbor will feel useful and needed and that wall of fear on both sides will be broken down. We may not all live in an area where we feel safe to explore relationships with others. But through relationships, trust is built and safety is a natural consequence.

I am not a social person by nature. I get anxiety when I know I will be around people that I have never met. When my pastor says that it is time to shake hands and meet someone new at church on Sunday, I want to exit for the bathroom. The thing is, there are very few instances where I was anxious about meeting new people that I didn’t walk away feeling like it was no accident that I was there in that place. The more I ask questions and find out about others’ lives, the more fear loses it stronghold.

We were designed to be in relationship, yet everything about our technology heavy world pushes us to be more consumed with self. We escape to an online world of false security and base our worth on how many ‘likes’ our post gets. In the real world we are responsible for forming relationships with actual people and holding ourselves accountable for our actions. It’s much easier to voice our opinions when you are staring at a screen and typing words when there seem to be no consequences. In person, we have to really choose our words wisely and be able to stand behind what we want to say.

In the end, we are the only ones who can make this life what we want it to be. If we want to be in relationship with others…with our neighbors, we have to step outside of our front door and be open to what comes next. We have to take a chance that living in the real world is better than one lived on a screen. Living inside our own four walls may feel safe. But what would it feel like to have walls that extend throughout our neighborhood and you know all of the people inside of them?

I welcome questions and feedback. Email me at: lisa@washingtonschoolneighbors.com

Upcoming Events:
Saturday June 16th-10 am-(Hope Church 10th Street Gardens)
-Worms and Composting Workshop with Matt Richardson
Come hear Matt Richardson, our neighbor on West 11th Street, share about his journey in the world of worms and how they have helped his family eliminate kitchen waste and instead use POW (poop of worms) to fuel their plants around their home. Put all your squirmy misconceptions about these slimy little guys to rest and find out how you two could have all the benefits without the stink and the gross.

Wednesday June 20th-(Hope Church 10th Street Gardens)
-Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt
Registration 5:30 pm/start promptly at 6 pm
Get out with your neighbors and explore the Washington School Neighborhood. Registration starts at 5:30 pm, with a start time of 6 pm sharp. Be the first to find all the landmarks on our scavenger hunt and return to the 10th st. gardens. Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt has graciously donated prizes for the first 3 teams who finish. (1st place-2/$10 gift cards, 2nd place-2/$5 gift cards, 3rd place-free fro-yo cake slice with purchase). Sign up in teams of two people (or families). Let’s see how well you know your neighborhood.

~Lisa Kasten, Neighborhood Connector