Rolling With It!

My need for a ride to the airport left me wondering from whom in my church I could get a ride.  Not long after, my neighbour met me outside and asked how I was getting to the airport for my trip (since he already knew from earlier conversations).  I told him that I did not know yet.  His next response was filled with curiosity when he asked why I had not thought of him.  Of course, the idea of leaving  at 5 am for the airport seems to limit your options to a select group of drivers.  But he reminded me that he was always up at that time….and proceeded to remind me that I  knew this fact.

This led to an invitation to have him over for supper.  As we prepared to sit down for a meal, I led a prayer as is the custom in our household.  This was not so for him and his household.  In addition to giving thanks for the gift of food, I prayed for his three children, by name.  Following the prayer, I noticed him subtly wiping away a couple of tears as he re-positioned his chair and regained his composure.

Simple opportunities can sometimes be easily overlooked when we could be naturally loving our neighbours.”

Starting

The new year brings with it questions about the last.  And the one question asked most last year revolved around learning.  In other words, what did you learn from loving your neighbours?  ‘Learning’ itself was central to all that went on in Neighbourhood Life.  Too many people can show a desire to help without knowing the root cause, much like the mission field in developing countries where the visitor comes in with a saviour mentality and solves the problem.  I was that guy, wanting to buy a flag for a poor school, only to find out that the flag was not raised until certain celebrations, or the time I bought an appliance for one family only to find out that it would misused due to lack of electricity.  Others feel that ‘loving your neighbour’ means they must be a service provider of some sort, or adds to the schedule, making our love for neighbours more of a checklist item in our life.  Perhaps we should just live to learn from our neighbours before we breathe any life into their lives.

In the mean time, Neighourhood Life is suggesting other disciplines for 2018.  Last year we covered the practice of re-imagining and the practice of hospitality as disciplines in our neighbourhood.  Starting January 14th, we will focus on the practice of vulnerability, which in itself is a topic that begins to make us vulnerable.  The reason we want to take this discipline head on is because its a game changer among neighbours.  The discussion of ‘practicing vulnerability among neighbours’ brings a variety of emotions to the forefront, no doubt!  In February we will focus on the practice of investment and the practice of trust.  Later, in the spring, we will practice the art of conversation as a way to lead us into block party season.

If you want a head start n these disicplines, you will find them in my book, “Neighouring for Life’ available on lulu.com or amazon.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

I really appreciate the faithful supporters of Neighbourhood Life.  Especially my neighbours.  This morning I found a gift with a card that a neighbour left inside our door while we were away (see pic).  Outside of the nice words, I am grateful for neighbours who are comfortable enough to let themselves in our home when we are not (read more about this in a book entitled, “Refrigerator Rights”).

  It has been another great year full of surprises and new insights.  This past year we worked at learning from neighbours; from building relationships to building buildings.   I believe our neighbourhoods are our greatest classroom!

One thing I learned is to “sock your neighbour” (see last post) when its dark.  While placing the stocking full of treats on a neighbours door during daylight hours, I heard him come out of his house while saying, “I have a gun….get off my property….Merry Christmas” – all in good fun!

Our book, “Neighbouring for Life” also had a great year and some great responses:

“Rick is a master story teller who knows more about being a great neighbour than anyone I know. This book is a must read for people who’s faith compels them to care‎ for others and build deeper relationships. If you want to improve your quality of life the simplest way is to get to know your neighbors. Rick not only shows you how but his stories will inspire you to actually do it.”
– Paul Born – best selling author of Deepening Community and Community Conversations and President of the Tamarack Institute,  University of Waterloo.
“Rick Abma doesn’t just talk and write about community; he lives it.  ‘Neighbouring for Life’ summarizes the valuable lessons he has learned from his experience as a neighbour.  Rick argues that community isn’t something we do in our spare time but rather its a way of life that can be realized through practices, not programs.  His book illustrates this with stories that are as rich and stimulating as the Good Neighbour Coffee he roasts.”
– Jim Diers – consultant and author at Neighbor Power, Seattle, Washington
Let me know if you want a copy?
And the great year continued with an invitation to Terrace, BC for 9 days of training on neighbouring for life.  It went well….we walked many neighbourhoods,.  In the new year I will make my way back there for more.
Thanks you all!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Rick Abma

Sock your neighbour!

Perhaps you may want to “sock your neighbour.”

Maybe even think about the neighbour that may need MORE cheer than any of the others!

There may be nothing spiritual here, so do not read into it….

but it is a great idea to get started in your neighbourhood.

(Read the instructions on the card in the pic.)

We enjoyed filling the sock with gifts for a neighbour.

A tree ornament, something homemade, a giant candy bar…perhaps a ‘thankyou’ card.

Don’t get caught when hanging it on your neighbours door.  And don’t let the dog hear you or it may not be a silent night.

May your neighbour be blessed!

An Other Kingdom

My new book just came in the mail.  Two community neighbourhood guru’s and an Old Testament professor wrote this book together, “An Other Kingdom.” Peter Block and John McKnight join Walter Bruggemann in helping us depart the consumer culture.  And the alternative has to do with our neighbourhood.  It’s kind of like a cultural detox!  This is a deep massage challenging us to relieve ourselves from tiredness and busyness, and hit the refresh button!  Oh how cool it would be to live in a world where people bloomed where they were planted instead of chasing the never ending desires of want.

Departing Consumer Culture

As the back of jacket says, “The consumer culture holds the belief that no amount is enough.  The free market ideology produces economic crisis, violence, and an exhausted planet.  An Other Kingdom provides a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking, to take us out of addictive consumption into a place where contract is replaced by covenant, consumption is replaced by neighbourliness, and time is reclaimed as our own. “

Coffee with a neighbour

It has recently come to my attention as a coffee roaster/missionary that a Dutch coffee company instilled a “have coffee with your neighbour day” in Holland, each and every May 26th.  It is a simple challenge that has given way to what the Happiness Institute (Denmark) declares as having produced more happiness than buying more ‘bling.’  A cup of coffee and an intentional connection may just put more of the “Merry” back into Christmas than another Black Friday deal.  So why wait till May 26th?  Treat yourself!  And if you submit your neighbour/coffee story here (before Christmas/2018) I will personally send you a package of Good Neighbour Coffee!

www.goodneighbourcoffee.ca

Neighbourhood Tears

The other night, I was woken by the sound of crying.   Standing in sleepy disorientation I couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from, but I knew it was close.  I looked out my windows, and peeped out the little glass panes on my door, but I could see nothing.  I was about to go back to bed but heard it once more.  I woke up my husband, and when he opened the door to take a look, we discovered a neighbor and her daughter sitting on our front step, crying and cold.  I will spare the details of  the long night, other than to say that as I sat with this woman, and my husband sat with her husband back at their home, the stories of pain, loss, hopelessness, shame, anger and sadness were absolutely heart wrenching.

Living and loving in the community you reside is messy business.  It’s hard, it hurts, it costs.  It might not end the way we hope.  It’s uncomfortable sometimes.  There is beauty, undoubtedly, but there is also a great deal of pain.

In the course of our conversation, the young woman shared that this is not the first time she had sat on our front steps in the night.  She needed help, and wanted help, but knocking on the door was just too painful, fearful and shameful for her.  Still, she came and sat on our steps.

Likely, it is not common that we will have a neighbor finding refuge on our physical front steps, but we do have entire communities who are sitting on our front steps in other ways.  We live with many who need help, and want help, and can’t find their way to knock. I am left wondering how I might open the door and invite Jesus to wipe the tears on the front steps of my neighborhood.​

Hospitality

The other day I picked up a book that reminded me that the literal meaning of ‘hospitality’ as found in the Bible means “loving strangers.”

There are many (historical) customs regarding the treating of strangers such as the ancient Bedouin shepherds offering of coffee – the first cup to a stranger is a gift that builds trust and is done in a ritual that begins with the roasting of the beans, which you can imagine takes time.  The stranger is welcomed, no questions asked.  Not until the third day.  I have never experienced this, but I sat next to a Bedouin woman when flying from Boston to Montreal, and she filled me in on the whole experience.  The Bedouin tribe go way back to the Biblical days.  They are nomads who constantly move their sheep around to find new pasture.  Often a person would come by their camp in which the tribe would practice this method of hospitality.  Practices like this flush out the true deep meaning of hospitality in which we generously make our lives/homes open to those with whom we have no relationship.  This means vulnerability, but it is done out of the same motive for loving ones neighbour.  It is an unconditional love; the kind that Jesus demonstrated.

Metrics

Having just returned from a time of remembrance for those who fought for freedom, I heard the message of “how much” was given for the sake of freedom.  It’s true!  I could never fully understand the amount of sacrifice given for me to live in freedom today.  This truth is also heard most every Sunday, the first day of every week, a day of rest and remembrance of the sacrifice and victory given by Christ so that we may be free!  Many preachers and songs try emphasize how deep or great this love is for us.  How can we measure this?

It just so happens this week is also when I picked up a book that caught my interest called, “The Little Book of Lykke  – The Danish search for the world’s happiest people.” (Lykke is Danish for happiness)  You see, the author, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, where they measure happiness.  Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland are the top three in the world.  The book shares a great deal of unique insight to metrics, while advocating for healthy neighbouring relationships. Interesting!  

When it comes to loving your neighbour, many wonder how to measure its success (our Western cultures’ metric for most things), and whether or not “its working.”  Perhaps we must revisit the remembrance day service, or the church service, reminding us of sacrificial love!  There are times in history where people wondered if we forgot.  Perhaps sacrificial love was forgotten for a time, but did that change the outcome of measurement as to the sacrificial love itself?  And do the answers to these questions change your attitude about why or how you should love your neighbours?

Funeral

Over the past year it became clear that our neighbour was in the process of becoming a single parent.  Our relationship as neighbours grew slowly and steadily.  How it had grown was something I was not aware of until the death of her father earlier this summer.  At one point, following the news of her father’s death, she asked if I would be willing to  do the funeral.  You must understand that my role in the community is as a businessman, and, although I am involved as a volunteer leader in our church, I have never been asked to lead a funeral.  Having said that, the request to do so was an overwhelming honour.  And this made me reflect on how our relationship as neighbours had progressed over time.

Although the story of our neighbour is filled with tragedy and heartbreak, it was good to know that she felt she could come to us during such circumstances.  We are grateful to be there for our neighbour, and we look forward the continued journey with her.