I grew up in an apartment, the eight-plex kind, and while it was a friendly community, I had visions of what it would feel like to live in a real house. Neighbors hanging out in front yards, kids running through the backyards, a kind of Smallville utopia.
I moved into my first "real" house in 1996, and when I moved out of it in 2002 I still only knew the people right next door. This wasn't what I had pictured. I was living in my second house for about five years, and knew the people next door and the people behind me. Still not what I was looking for, so I decided to do something about it. You can read about that here in a post I wrote in 2008.
Amy Lively has taken that idea of getting to know your neighbors to a whole new level and has made it easier for the rest of us in the process. Realizing that after a few years of living in her neighborhood that she only knew a handful of people, she decided to host an open house. I say that like she decided one day and did it, but for months she talked herself out of it. Recently I asked her to share some of her story with us for the 31 Day series, and here is what she said:
"Reach my world? Yeah, I can do that. I can go to Africa carrying a 50-pound bag of rice. I can talk about Jesus with people who don't even speak English. I can fill my Facebook feed with tales of world travels. That sounds heroic and brave and fun (except for the part about malaria and giant mosquitoes, that sounds hard).
But go across the street? Nah, I'd rather not. The woman across the street won't think I'm a hero, she'll think I'm a freak. She can slam the door in my face, make fun of me with our mutual friends, ignore me in line at the post office. That's a little awkward.
These were my fears when I thought about getting to know my neighbors. What does God think this is, the 1950's? We don't wear aprons and pearls anymore. We work, we volunteer, we hide out in our fenced-in back yards. I don't have anything in common with my neighbors.
It took me a long, long time to give in to this crazy idea God had planted in my head and invite my neighbors to my home. When I knocked on their doors, not one was slammed in my face. No one ridiculed me or was unkind to me. Not everyone accepted my invitation, but everyone seemed pleased to be invited.
And the ones who did come, the neighbors who did sit in my living room with a cup of coffee (sans apron, sans pearls)? As relationships formed gradually and naturally, we began to have spiritual conversations. Together we keep our neighborhood safe and we help each other out. They've become my friends.
I'd love to go to Africa someday and love my neighbors there. But today, I can reach my world from my own front porch."
As guests were leaving after that first open house, Amy thought to herself, I can help people learn to do this. Out of that desire grew a resource called The Neighborhood Café. She has put together resources, invitations, and even a magazine called Espresso to help you figure out what to talk about with a bunch of women you are just getting to know.
Check out her site at www.theneighborhoodcafe.net. She has videos, articles, and even free resources to help you get started. I know you will find the tools and encouragement you need to reach out to your world at The Neighborhood Café.