By Sara-May Cardy
Love your neighbour.
Whether you are new to the missional conversation or have been involved in it for a while, this is one theme that comes up again and again. I remember the first time it really hit me that this commandment isn’t just referring to loving others, but that God does want us to love our actual neighbours. And as much as that thought excited me and increased my desire to be a presence of hope in my community, I have struggled to figure out ways to connect with my neighbours.
My neighbourhood is on the edge of being inner city and is a bit of a mix of urban and suburban. I live in a small apartment building that has no shared common spaces except for hallways and entryways (and you can’t really hang-out in those spaces without looking a little creepy). I can go for weeks without seeing another person in my building. Over the last 4 years there have been many people move in and out, and I know very little about the people I share a building with.
I want to be a good neighbour to the 7 other apartments in my building, but every time I come up with something that might work, I find a problem with the idea and don’t follow through.
Last spring, I had an idea that I really wanted to try. I knew that I would be unlikely to follow through if I didn’t have someone hold me accountable to it, so I asked my small group to join me in my endeavour. We baked spring-themed cookies for our neighbours as a way to introduce ourselves and make an initial connection. I took the time to package the cookies and write small notes with each bag.
But when the day came to give out the cookies, I was filled with anxiousness and fear. I wondered what people’s reactions might be and worried that my neighbours would think I was weird, or be angry with me for making them cookies. So instead of delivering them door-to-door, I decided to leave them in the mailboxes in our entry way.
I knew I was going to be out most of the day, so I got up early and nervously put the bags of cookies with their notes in the appropriate mailboxes and left the building before anyone could see me. All day I was so nervous to return home for fear that angry notes would be waiting for me.
Nothing was at my door when I got home that evening, but I avoided the mailboxes for about a week just in case. When I finally checked the mailboxes, I found a thank-you note waiting for me from one of the units on the basement floor. It was a simple thank-you but it made my day! It showed me that I really had nothing to be afraid of, and at that moment I realized that I had no idea what to do next.
I wish I could say that I came up with a brilliant idea and that since the cookies I’ve been able to connect with people in my building, but I can’t. In the year since I took that small step, more people have moved out and into the building and I keep holding myself back from trying to get to know them for fear that I’ll look crazy or weird, or that someone might get mad at me for being nice.
My experience last spring didn’t have the ending that I was hoping for, but sometimes when we start engaging in our neighbourhoods we don’t always get instant success stories. Living a missional life takes time and effort and the courage to keep trying. So this spring, I am endeavouring to try again: to prayerfully seek out a way to foster connections with those in my apartment building and to ask that God would help me to connect with at least one of my neighbours.
What has your experience of loving your neighbours looked like? We’d love to hear your stories of what worked and what didn’t. There is power in knowing that we’re not on this journey alone!
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Galatians 5:14 NIV).