In almost 12 years of marriage, we’ve moved 6 times. We are no strangers to jumping in and embracing community, starting right where we are planted, and with who surrounds – our neighbors. At times, I’ve had grand notions of connecting with people over there or what about them? Only to look next door and across the street and decide, Why not here? Now?
Sometimes neighborhood relationships happen accidentally, while other times intentionally.
A stair step cement wall divides our front yard from our neighbors’ and it’s a magnet for kids. I’m not kidding you, they come from all over the street to climb, jump off, and somersault onto our lawn. I think we’ve met two or three families this way. We come out to meet them and before we know it, we’re all jumping off the wall.
Then there’s the intentional ways of simply being visible. When Ty requested one of his birthdays be a dance party with chocolate chip cookies, we held it on the front lawn and invited the neighbors to stop by. Billy, a carpenter from the end of the block, walked his Shitzu over and left with a bag of warm cookies. Jason and Lauren paused shooting baskets to join the fun. Angel and Anna waved from next door, on the way to manage their Peruvian restaurant.
After school, we hang out in the front yard, kicking the soccer ball or tossing a football. Sometimes I bring snacks, lay out a blanket, and cozy up to write while the boys play. One by one, kids mosey over to wrestle, get bikes out, or jump off the notorious side wall. The best when Tami, from across the street, comes to get her kids for dinner, and we end up talking while the afternoon sun casts long shadows across the grass.
But there’s always that one neighbor, right?
The one who never comes outside. All we notice is that she happens to be a single gal across the way, who honks as she pulls up to her driveway, alerting an inside animal that she is, indeed, home.
Mom, the boys say in unison, she’s so weird.
That’s not nice guys. But inside I’m agreeing. It’s kinda weird.
Up goes the garage door, in goes her car, then down goes the garage door. In four years we haven’t seen her walking the neighborhood. Not.once. And when a white, oversized LEGO cube in the form of a PODS showed up on her driveway, it became the neighborhood eyesore. So now she was that neighbor.
Until a few weeks ago.
Our Houdini bunny escaped and the boys and I searched the ‘hood.
Tucker, Tucker, we called.
Along the way, we chatted with Bill, and waved at neighbors down the way – their mailbox carried pink balloons and a Congratulations sign smiled from their front door.
Tuuuuuuuuuuuuucker. There’s a reason we named him this, my friends.
Back home, there was a knock, and suddenly I’m face to face with hermit mystery lady.
I found a rabbit. Is it yours? She motioned us over to where he was safely stowed in her garage.
The boys and I followed her across the street, and when she opened her garage, we saw it was Tetris arranged with chairs, dressers, and boxes. After she handed Tucker over, I thanked her and introduced us.
Are you moving? I asked.
My mom just died and I inherited all her furniture and I can’t bring myself to go through all of her belongings, she motioned to the puzzle-pieced furniture and storage PODS. And just like that my judgy perspective shifted from viewing her as the anti-social neighbor to a grieving daughter. Suddenly, our lost bunny brought Carla and me together as neighbors.
And learning her story has been a beautiful reminder that seeing is only a portion of what actually is.
But seriously, does anyone want a Houdini rabbit?
“Love your neighbor as yourself…” – Mark 12:31