After 17 years in Calgary we never actually felt at home there. My husband and I are perhaps a bit nomadic, so we were more than ready for a change. Despite making plenty of money there, it just wasn’t great. We left our jobs and family and started looking around. Not for work but for a place to call home; a community of people who cared about each other, that we could contribute to and feel a part of. Enter Laurier Heights. 8 months in and our lives are transformed. Work will be work pretty much wherever, but home is resoundingly right where we have landed. This is partly because of the Abundant Community initiative coming to us and partly because we are venturing out of our way to connect.
I could go on and on about how much differently we look at the world now. We have begun to really value our little trade-economy we have with neighbours – even in something simple like babysitting. Our lives are enriched by the visits we have with the people we have met and the ways in which those relationships are being sustained.
We just moved about 2 months ago into this new neighbourhood. Its a small hamlet on the north side of Lacombe. I’ve been beginning to feel anxious about meeting our neighbours and how that was going to happen. Like for example, should we go around from door to door with some cookies or baking of some kind and introduce ourselves that way? Well that’s like adding one more thing to the to do list which already is filled with other good things. So we haven’t done anything. Yet in the last 2 weeks I’ve met over 9 neighbors in our little hamlet. One I met when my wife left me at church and I walked home. We just met on the street, a man who had lived here for over 35 years with more history to share than we had time for. Then I assisted our 14 year old daughter going door to door to sell chocolate bars for to raise money for her grad trip. We went to 6 houses. I held the chocolate bars while she did her presentation. After she was done I explained who we were and that we had recently moved into the neighborhood. We exchanged names and said we would look forward to meeting again( it just happened to be around –25 degrees outside). This week I met 2 more neighbors by walking the dog and checking the mail at our local kiosk. Then the neighbor next to us who just moved in a came over while I was out and asked my wife a question about the water condition in this area. When I came home I went over to see him and became acquainted. I gave him the name of a reputable water conditioning company we had used. During Christmas 2 senior long time dwellers in this area dropped off small baking treats. So all this happened without us doing anything out of the ordinary. It feels good to be here! No more anxiety.
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.”
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!