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How I Learned to Love My Literal Neighbors
Image: Courtesy of Karen Swallow Prior

How I Learned to Love My Literal Neighbors

Sometimes it's easier to love people in the abstract.

Based on the area's demographics, most of our neighbors were not likely Christians. But we were. And to our shame, it had been they who showed us what it meant to be a neighbor.

When we pulled out of our driveway for the last time on a Sunday morning, we vowed that we would not make the same mistake in our new home.

Two days later, we arrived at a forlorn old house set atop a winding road leading out of our new town—population about 2,200. We gave ourselves just enough time to unload the truck and unpack a few boxes before we drove a half hour to the city and bought a grill at Sears. We didn't even have a kitchen stove. We set up the grill, picked a date, and hand-delivered invitations to the handful of homes closest to us.

Only about half of the neighbors we invited came to our cookout. The other half didn't respond. Apparently, neighborliness isn't instant coffee.

But it was a start. More than anything, it reaffirmed for us the commitment we had made to "dwell in the land" (Psalm 37:3) where the Lord had brought us.

While we had sold most of our material goods in the garage sale, we brought my Arabian horse with us. Hidden down a brush-filled path behind our old brick farmhouse was an ancient, roomy barn we redeemed. We built some stalls and put up a fence, even before unpacking most of our boxes. One of the families that came to the cookout had a young daughter who loved horses. It didn't take long for us to bond. When the family decided to buy their first horse and told us their plans to build a new barn behind their house, we urged them instead to keep their horse in ours. So they did. Now, a dozen years and a few more horses later, they still do. We share the barn, share the chores, and—following their purchase of the field adjacent to ours—we share the pastureland, too. No money is exchanged, just space, time, a love of horses—and neighborliness.

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Displaying 2–2 of 2 comments

Nance Wabshaw

August 07, 2013  1:42pm

Thank you for the reminder that it is up to us to create community.

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