Strategically Placed to Love Your Neighbors

You are strategically placed to love eight other families. Those eight families live in the three houses across the street, the three behind you, and ones on your left and your right. Those eight families, whoever they are, are sharing the same soil, the same trees, the same wind, the same air, the same sounds, the same local park, the same local school, the same crime rates, the same traffic, and the same hope for living in a great neighborhood.

My neighbor, Marshall, is one of the hardest workers I know. I often used to feel guilty that we didn’t talk more. I would just wave every day when he came home from work. He works as a machinist. He leaves his house at 4 a.m. and returns by midday. After work, he rides around the city in a beat-up Chevy truck picking up scrap metal for resale. He’s home by 6 p.m. each night—just in time to fix a meal for his wife and daughter. We can tell that his home is dysfunctional. But it seems that he works hard to keep his family together.

One day he saw me in my front yard playing baseball with my son, Josiah. I saw him driving slowly so I waved. Then he parked his truck in the middle of the street with the engine running. A second later, he rolled down his window and yelled from the driver's seat, "Hey Joe, come over here. I want to talk to you!” I joined him in the middle of the street for a conversation. Since we almost never talked, Marshall inviting me to chat seemed like a big deal.

When I approached the truck, he looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Joe, I see you in the neighborhood all the time, always waving at me when I come home from work. Why do you do this?” I replied, “Well, I guess I just love my neighbors and I’m trying to make our neighborhood a great place to live.” It was all I could think to say at the time and honestly it felt kind of cheesy.

But right there in the middle of the street, as Marshall sat in the driver’s seat of his rusty Chevy truck, we connected for the first time. He told me how much what I’d said mattered to him. We instantly bonded. I knew then that our lives would become intertwined. Right then and there, I knew what it felt like to love my neighbor—except my neighbor was the one inviting me over to talk.

When I finally realized that I don’t live where I live on accident, but that I am strategically placed to love my eight neighbor families, I began to live on purpose. Marshall was one of my eight and investing in a relationship with him was a priority. Over the next few months we shared meals, we chatted on the front porch, and we walked through the neighborhood together sharing our joys and our fears. When his wife died, I cried for him, because I had actually grown to love my neighbor.

I don’t know how to change our entire neighborhood, but I now know how important it is to prioritize the families who live around me. I suspect that’s exactly where change starts—and Marshall would agree.

Do you feel that you are strategically placed in your neighborhood? Do you know your eight neighbor families? Do they know you? How can you initiate conversation with one of your “eight?” Perhaps beginning with a small conversation can lead you to a meaningful relationship like Marshall’s and mine.

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