What does it mean to be a neighbor?…
The more I try to answer that question, the more nuanced the answer gets. I have my own thoughts, but I'm learning that you can't generalize such a question due to the personal and relational depth of experiences of the person you're asking. What I am sure of is that the question should be asked and the answer is an important one. I'm convinced we need to ask each other questions like these if we're going to learn how to live in peace with one another. I've come to the realization over the years that I can't begin to be a good neighbor if I don't know what my neighbors consider to be a good neighbor.
I became the Executive Director of NeighborLink after three years of volunteering with the organization. I started like most, taking on projects in a very transactional way where I would find a project, complete that project, and then return to my corner of the world. The more projects I took on, the more challenging of projects I liked to take on, which resulted in me spending more time with neighbors that unfortunately couldn't complete those projects on their own. Spending more time meant I got to hear more about people's lives that included their history, their successes, and about the circumstances that positioned them to need help. These conversations and relationships started to show me that there were really great people facing life's circumstances throughout our neighborhoods and their needs were relatively simple.
I also realized I had needs and vulnerabilities I didn't even know that I had, but were being filled by this two way relationship that was being created. These volunteer experiences were turning into transformative experiences where I wrestled with what I thought I knew and all that I didn't know. They led to a place where life, vocation, and purpose all crashed together. My wife and I were learning that proximity mattered and that if we were going to turn service into lifestyle, then where and how we live matters. If we were going to live a life of intention or attempt to be good neighbors ourselves, then it was going to take us to make decision that met our needs, but could align us with living for the common good, whatever that means.
For the past 10 years, I've been running NeighborLink and we've been living intentionally in our neighborhood. Both have helped shaped what I currently think being a good neighbor means, which is changing every day because it's a life long process. The vision at NeighborLink is to help people become better neighbors through tangible acts of kindness and service.
"Neighboring" is a project that I've created to share the conversations my co-workers and I have been having with neighbors and influencers throughout our community. Since we have a lot to learn, we thought it would be worth asking the question of what it means to be a good neighbor with as diverse of an audience as we could. One of my beliefs is that the word neighborhood could be used to define more than a collection of houses and a purely American experience. It could be a workplace, a coffee shop, a artistic community, a network of nonprofits, or an international neighbor that has an entirely different experience of intentional community than we do.
I hope that this series extends beyond 12-parts and becomes a series where we can ask entire neighborhoods the question and see what is different and what is the same. Thanks for tuning in.