Monday, September 8, 2014

Love Your Neighbor

We had a little adventure the other week where two (or three) stories collided:

Story 1: We live in a neighborhood with 100's of homes, and have been trying to be a little more assertive meeting and getting to know our neighbors. It's hard because most of the time we are home, we are exhausted and interested in quiet, uninterrupted family time. None-the-less, we believe that we should have an impact in our neighborhood and that we should tangibly "love" our neighbors. There's a particular house on the next street over that I have taken note of for years. Perhaps it's strange, but I know who the woman is who lives there - I've seen her family members (people I know) coming and going and have put two and two together. I've also observed her as I've driven by the past several years - her bumper stickers, her aesthetic tastes - and thought, "she seems like a phenomenally interesting person, and I should totally stop and introduce myself to her". But I've kept walking, or running, or driving by, and I still had not met her. One recent Tuesday, I was out to lunch with some co-workers and there she was - at least I was 95% sure it was her. We made eye contact, and I did the "do you recognize me?" eye-brow lift. She clearly did not, so I didn't risk embarrassing myself making an introduction in case it wasn't her.

Story 2: That same Tuesday, after a long day at work and a short dinner break at home, I was preparing for a wedding-planning meeting with a couple who I had been counseling. They were scheduled to arrive at our home in about 10 minutes. As I relaxed upstairs for a few minutes, casually perusing the daily Facebook fodder, I noticed it was National Dog Day or something similarly ridiculous. I thought, I'll join the mayhem and posted a lovely post about my pup, Prada. I stated that she was a wonderful dog, hardly causing any trouble for anyone as she spends a good 22 hours a day sleeping! In a hilarious twist of irony, at the same moment my post was arriving on the world wide web, my dog was running out our front door, as the couple arrived. We live in a "must have leash" homeowners association, so our dog doesn't know what to do if she's not on a leash...and she split! No looking back! She just followed her nose and was off on her joy run!

We checked the houses she typically visits when she runs away, but saw no signs of her, so with great shame, I hopped in my car and started the awkward creeper drive around the 'hood to look for signs of her. Fast-forward. I was making my second loop and returning to my home, dogless and unsure of what to do. As I crested the hill, there she was, on a leash, held by none other than the neighbor I mentioned in Story 1. I couldn't believe it. I stopped my car and the further-awkwardness ensued.

First, I introduced myself and said, "this may sound terribly odd, but I think we ate lunch at the same restaurant today...and also, I know who you are...and also, I've been wanting to meet you for several years!" She laughed (thankfully) and I further explained my comments. After that brief exchange, she explained to me how my dog ended up on her leash. It turns out that she is a self-proclaimed cat lady. She takes care of making sure the lingering neighborhood felines are fixed and fed. Her elderly mother lives with her, and she had just explained to her mother that she was going to go let one of the cats in the house. As she opened the door, MY DOG ran in their house instead, still following her nose and heading straight for the dish of cat food, which she quickly inhaled. The mother said "well that's not a cat"!

We ended up connecting on Facebook after the entire incident, where my new acquaintance gave me her contact information and suggested that we meet at that restaurant for lunch sometime. I think I'll arrange that very soon!

As I re-tell the stories, I can't help but laugh. But I am also reminded of my need to be more pro-active in getting to know the people I come in contact with on a daily basis. If I say I believe Jesus is who he says he is (and I do), then I MUST - as a primary priority - care about every person around me. "Saving" them is not my responsibility. Loving them is. I need to be better about reaching out a friendly hand. Or maybe I just need to let my dog loose more often...

What about you: Who do you "pass by" every day? Do you need to stop and introduce yourself? Do you realize that any/every interaction you have with someone may be their only exposure to God - as He shines through you? How do you show that you prioritize the commands and example of Jesus to love your neighbor? Your brothers and sisters in Christ? Your enemies?

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