Life is Better When You Know Your Neighbors

We moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota in July of 2015. I do give some of the credit to God because I don’t know that we are that lucky to have not only found a home, but to own a home in St. Louis Park. To give you an idea of just how “lucky” we were, we saw our home the first day it came on the market, we were one of 6 offers that day, and we weren’t even the top offer. I wrote a sort-of love letter and things really just fell into place.

St. Louis Park is a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis with a range of charming and petite homes, torn-down remodels, low-income apartments, and gentrified high-rises. It is a community with (in my view) a wonderful blend of contemporary and traditional values.

Our city also has a large Jewish community, mostly because they were the only city besides North Minneapolis to allow home ownership to Jewish people in the 1950s. I feel like this decision has opened the city up to really celebrating religious diversity in a lot of ways, although it’s not perfect.

National Night Out was this month and we’ve never been in town for it until this year. We learned about it on Sunday, quickly put together little invitations that Zadie decorated with an odd choice of stickers to deliver to the 33 homes on our block on Monday, and welcomed 15 neighbors to our yard Tuesday night.

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As an adult, I really try to honor the commandments of “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” My small group through church gave us the idea to think about how to be caring people in our actual neighbors’ lives by envisioning a Tic Tac Toe board, where your house is the middle box. (Obviously, you modify if you’re in an apartment or a cul-de-sac, or some other living arrangement.) For us, it works out perfectly. Our soft, Level 1 goal is to know the names of the neighbors who live in the three houses behind us in the alley, the two next door to us, and the three in front of us. Right now, we can at least name the people in 7 of the homes. Level 2 includes being able to know 1-2 things about their lives. We can do this for 5 of the homes. I don’t know if there is really a Level 3, but to me, it’s actually maintaining a genuine relationship with them- continuing to learn more, helping out when needed, and doing life together when we can.

Another way I can give God some credit is for providing us with some amazing people to have as neighbors. My next door neighbor has become one of my best friends- we work for the same school district, try to think critically together, share a love for Caribou, and try to walk together when we can. Our neighbors across the street are renters, and the mom brought us corn from the farmer’s market this summer. Her 21 year old son’s friend, who lives with them, surprised us with sunflowers one day. They also had us over for dinner at the end of the school year. Two different neighbors across the street have watched Zadie last minute when childcare fell through, and I’m excited to return the favor. All of these brief interactions fill my heart with warmth as opposed to the ever-awkward “should I wave? are they looking? do I say hi?” nerves for the neighbors I don’t know at all.

As I have said before, I can get swirled up in the overwhelming task of trying to leave the world a better place. There are so many people in need. There is so much on the to-do list. I’m only one person.

I have found that intentionally pouring into the few families I see all the time is a really meaningful way to improve my community and honestly myself. Knowing who I live near is a great gift to me and my family. I really believe life is better when you know your neighbors.

Who are your neighbors? How can you improve the quality of those relationships before summer ends and we all hibernate for the winter?


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