This past week I had the privilege to spend nine days of training in Terrace, British Columbia. At least 40 households seemed to have read our book, “Neighbouring for Life” prior to my arrival which proved helpful in preparation for the days ahead. Among the evenings of teaching and training were the small walks through various neighbourhoods. I was amazed at how people were in tune with their neighbourhoods, albeit they acknowledged parts that were left to be discovered. Day one began with the classic mapping exercise, defining neighbourhood boundaries to which we added names, attributes and matters of the heart. The participating neighbourhoods seemed to blanket the majority of Terrace leading to the vision of their collective community impact; if everyone invested in their neighbourhood by ‘loving your neighbour,’ healthier community and enriched lives would be inevitable. While travelling from neghbourhood to neighbourhood, I heard a variety of stories: Out of nowhere came a man from three doors down who suddenly suggested they should have a block party…..as if he had been listening to us the whole time. Another story highlighted the emergency appendix operation of a young man from across the street who now was telling us the story as we bumped into him on our short neighbourhood walk. More to come. The trip through Terrace was unbelievable! What a great community! I look forward to our follow up training in the new year.
Grisham’s book, “Skipping Christmas” is one to make you tear up with joy. Ironically, Christmas was filled with joy and the idea of skipping it was more stressful in the end for the family. Read the book or watch the movie, “Christmas with the Kranks” and you will see the neighbours rally around the Kranks! There is no doubt Christmas is prime opportunity to share the joy with neighbours. Bring a meal, host a party, or simply enjoy the fireworks that the neighbourhood wants to share.
Neighbourhood Life is about awakening the power of families and neighbourhoods. Here you will find stories, insights and challenges from life in various neighbourhoods throughout Central Alberta. The greatest commandment includes, ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’ and when this is taken seriously so much happens that make neighbours say, “Why don’t we do this more often.”
Remember, the Christmas season is about giving. This seems simple and maybe even rhetorical. Too often neighbours who understand the command may try outsource this to others or by getting their neighbours somewhere for them to experience this love. Busyness/distraction and fear are the two biggest reasons that keep us from obedience, but when we hear the Christmas story it may surprise us to find these reasons play a role in those who missed the gift that day in Bethlehem too.
For Thanksgiving weekend we harvested the garden together with neighbours. Not because we wanted to be neighbourly, but out of necessity – the weather. This did lead to a neat bartering system. Today the trade will be red beets and some meat from the last hunting trip in exchange for freshly roasted coffee. Last week our Thai neighbours loaded us up with cilantro for a beer (not really a trade, but we needed something to drink while discussing our gardens). The barter is not the point either. All in all, it seems that the gardening and bartering are a means in which we enjoy the love of others, more than the gifts themselves. This is what we are ultimately thankful for, which is why we are just glad that those who love, simply show up. The rest is just bonus!
And so I am thankful for those neighbours who garden together, who share their gifts and goods, encourage on a weekly basis, and are simply present.
One of the ways we are seeking to connect with our neighbours is through lawn mowing. My twelve year old son has a small mowing business. He calls himself “The Neighbourhood Mower.” So, every spring he goes around the neighbourhood with his business flyer, offering to mow people’s grass. Not too many take him up on his offer, but regardless, it allows us to connect with our neighbours in a practical way. I go with him on his rounds, and strike up a conversation about things other than mowing. And then usually those conversations continue and are deepened if that neighbour becomes a client. Building relationships with neighbours isn’t the only reason we mow grass. My son appreciates the money, and I appreciate the work experience it is giving him. But one of the blessed results of this sort of small business activity is the opportunity to form relationships with your neighbours. How are you serving your neighbours?
- Neighbourhood Life participant
It was one year ago when Ron and Monica put their Little Free Library in front of their home for their neighbours to use. They intentionally put the idea into action with a ‘launch’ which included the neighbours and food. The official kick-off helped gather neighbours and introduce them to the concept. It sits on their front yard, with a little stone path leading up to it. The actual design matches the other buildings on their yard – pretty cool! Now that its been a year, Ron and Monica are delighted to share that their Little Free Library has been a healthy contribution to the life of their neighbourhood. Many of the neighbours take a book or leave a book and it has proven to be another doorway through which we learn about the people in our neighbourhood.
Over the past couple of years, Neighbourhood Life has encouraged the idea of blessing one’s neighbours as one way to love them. One way to bless your neighbours is to share your celebrations with them. Since this all started, I have seen neighbourhoods gather for a 55th anniversary with donations going towards the food grains project, a 40th birthday with a local band, and a 65th birthday in conjunction with the grand opening of the birthday boy’s wood-working hobby shop which he just built onto his home!
Today I delivered the Neighbourhood Life BBQ to a 4oth anniversary that gathered the neighbours for lunch, then a tour of a boardwalk built by the couple and also a visit to a cabin built from raw lumber. The tent was raised and the food was spread….and the neighbours came with comments that honoured the couple’s 40th anniversary which, in turn, honoured the neighbours. The couple’s children and grandchildren wore bright matching shirts for neighbours to approach and visit. Homemade posters featuring pics of the family lined the inside walls of the tent. What a blessing! What a gift! Towards the evening the couple invited many other guests to join them for a BBQ dinner to round out the day.
It was exactly one year ago that I remember handing out Good Neighbour Coffee at our local trade show when some of our neighbours stopped to say, ‘hi!’ Looking back over the year, we have had a growing relationship that revolves around weekly coffee times (actually lattes now) and reflection on life’s joys and challenges in light of the Bible.
In 2008, our family lived among the Honduran farmers who now collectively supply us with the organic, ‘direct-trade’ coffee we roast for local churches, stores, restaurants, as well as deliver from on line sales. We didn’t know it at the time, but a few years after returning from Honduras, I enrolled for roasting classes in Idaho, along with a handful of others that came from as far as Dubai (During introductions to the class, others introduced themselves as corporate industries that roasted thousands of pounds each week, compared to my introduction which revealed my capacity of roasting 50 lbs per week! Humble moment….). Since that class, the coffee roasting has steadily grown in its capacity, but more so in its ability to be a vehicle for neighbourhood ministry. In fact, the stories on the back of the coffee packages have created excellent opportunities to share what is possible when we intentionally love our neighbours.
Even in the last couple of weeks, two different parties have committed to using Good Neighbour Coffee as their own fundraisers, helping fund their ministry alongside that of Neighbourhood Life. And another person purchased several of the 200 gram packages (see pic) to bring door to door as a way to invite neighbours to consider coming to their first block party, pointing to the stories on the back as a way to inspire the possibilities of what neighbours can do together. Even those literalists who say they don’t drink coffee know that the term can be an affectionate way of saying ‘we should connect’.
There are other creative means in which neighbours have used the coffee, which supports the Honduran farmers and missionaries (actually two of the farmers are coming to visit our roasting shop in September – more on that later). If you need ideas in creatively using the coffee in your neighbourhood, just contact us through this site.
This week the neighbourhood Life BBQ was back in action for the third time this year. The deal remains the same: Gather a few neighbours and the Neighbourhood Life BBQ will be delivered, free of charge, for you and your neighbours to enjoy. The only challenge may be if you live outside the province of Alberta and if the date is already filled. Otherwise it’s pretty simple and straightforward. I have personally delivered the trailer BBQ (see pic) to more than 40 neighbourhoods in the past two years. (FYI: we do rent it out for $250 per day outside of neighbourhood gatherings). The point is to connect neighbours by having them meet over food on a neutral space, such as the curbside, in hopes to build the relational equity that makes neighbourhoods even healthier!
It has occurred to me that this offer is ‘too good to be true’ for some, so if you must, you can donate to the cause, and even receive a receipt for tax purposes. But some feel this is still overwhelming! So let’s keep this simple. Why don’t you pick a date when you will be eating supper at your home, and invite my wife and I over. Except, I bring the Neighbourhood Life BBQ trailer, park it in front of your home at the time you wish and plan on leaving one hour later (just so we have time to eat and chat about things that have happened in other neighbourhoods). And in the one hour, we will each take our own food items for the occasion and cook ’em up. Now that we have this planned, you may want to just let a few neighbours know that this is available for them too – we even have invitations for you to use if that would make it easier. As we sit and chat curbside, perhaps a neighbour or two will come by to say hi, or maybe take us up on our invitation. At this point, we will welcome them and talk about the beautiful weather, the latest news, the up and coming summer Olympics, or about the BBQ. Either way, we may be joining the many others who have been pleasantly surprised at what happens next!