Loving your neighbors requires moving from vague familiarity with the people who live around you to co-investing with them for your neighborhood’s well-being.
After decades of intentionally loving my neighbors, I never stop being surprised that my neighbors actually want to do something meaningful together. Sharing your life with your neighbors is not some vague way of being emotionally connected to people; it’s about practically co-investing with them to do something meaningful together.
I live in the Jackson Neighborhood of Fresno, California. A few years ago, some neighbors and I noticed that all of the hundred-year-old historic lampposts on our street were dilapidated. They were tagged with graffiti and had fallen into disrepair. Over the course of next two years, thirty neighbors joined forces to wash, sand, prime, and paint every lamppost on our block. All of them. We did it together. It was a true co-investment (with the help of pizza, of course).
One person secured a paint donation. Another person let us use his truck. Others contributed supplies and manpower. We exchanged emails and held meetings. Every two weeks we hung flyers around the next block we planned to revamp; we invited these neighbors to join us in fixing the lampposts. We invited them to co-invest with us.
Early each Saturday morning we carried ladders, poles, paint brushes, and scrapers down the street for our lamppost renovations. I got to know Troy, who become our neighborhood’s safety officer; Andy, our neighborhood’s resident historian; and Ray, a former mailman and now our neighborhood’s handyman. My neighbors and I invested in something together and we formed lasting bonds. Along the way, we discovered our unique passions and skills.
While painting a lamppost with my neighbor, Doug, I noticed that he was incredibly meticulous with a paint brush. So, I said, “Doug, I’ve known you for years, but I’ve never asked what you do for work?” “I’m a painter,” he replied. “That’s amazing!” I said, but then wondered, “Why are you helping out on your day off?!” He paused, looked up from his work, and looked right at me. “I wanted to get to know you better, Joe,” he said.
Over the next few months I learned a lot from Doug and he became a very supportive friend. Co-laboring together was the onramp for a new relationship. For years I merely had vague familiarity with Doug, but in two-hours’ time we moved from familiar to friends.
Loving your neighbor means co-laboring with them for the common good. When we move from familiarity to friendship we find common goals for the neighborhood’s common good. Ask yourself this question: What is an opportunity to do something good in my neighborhood and who is a neighbor I could invite to join me?
If you were willing to ask this… watch out! You and your neighborhood are about to see real positive change.