Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Turning tables…

Not too long ago, I was about to walk Fawkes the Dog when I noticed a moving van outside my gate. Turns out that the house just across our street- unoccupied for years- was finally going to have residents. I introduced myself. They seemed like a neat, young couple. But we didn’t take time to chat. They had furniture to get inside before the sun went down, and Fawkes the Dog was anxious to go.

A few days later, I walked out back to deposit something into our trash bin, when I noticed a younger couple entering the house just across the alley. It had been several months since anyone besides home renovators had gone in there. The previous rentors- who we enjoyed- moved out in fall for a smaller home. But now, it seems that someone was moving in. I said hello, confirmed they were, in fact, our new neighbors, and welcomed them to the neighborhood.

Then…it struck me. I’ve been in my home long enough now that I’m no longer the new kid on the block. Some of my neighbors, sure, have been around for many more years than we, but we’re no longer rookies. We’re part of the neighborhood. And that felt rather strange. I shook my head after telling both of these couples, “Welcome to the neighborhood,” as if I questioned whether I had permission to say that. In my mind, I feel at times like I’m still on the outside looking in. But these new neighbors couldn’t know that. They just saw someone who already lived there.

After the shock of that realization wore off, I smiled a bit. It dawned on me that I had wanted certain things from my neighborhood when I first arrived. We moved to North Minneapolis so we could know and be known by neighbors, not avoid and be avoided (which is what had happened where we lived previously). I mean, I’ll never be the most outgoing, gregarious neighbor. I’m enough of an introvert that when I’m home, I like being alone and quiet so I can gather and save energy to do my job well. Still, I wanted neighbor kids to feel comfortable asking to play with my dog when they walked by, and they do. I wanted to feel connected enough with folk who live close to ask for help if needed, and we do. I’m sure we could all do more. Still, I think we’ve got much of what we hoped for by being in this neighborhood. As new neighbors move in, though, it’s up to us to ensure that remains true, and that these new folk get the same treatment.

In other words, because I’m no longer the newest, I have to be what I want from a neighborhood in order to have the neighborhood I want. I’m no longer in position to accept it from others. I have to be it for others. There’s a parallel in that to church, amen? When you first arrive in a congregation, you hope “they” will offer and do the things you think are best about church. Over time, however, “they” becomes “we” and what you want from church is about what you bring to church, what you invest in it, what you’re willing to work for or risk, the creativity you support. When that transition happens is different for many, but it happens. Like moving in, at some point you’re no longer the “new neighbor” or “new church member.” You’re here. You are we. You are, therefore, responsible.

I think I’m going to like that about having new neighbors, but- I’ll be honest- it’s rather daunting. It’s easier to see myself in the outsider role than accept accountability for making our block the best block it can be. I mean, like church, my efforts aren’t the only that matter; I can’t do it all myself, even if I wanted to. But I bet that if I give the best I can, often enough and with a hopeful enough spirit, then I’ll live where I’ve wanted to live all along.

May we say the same of where we worship and serve God!

Grace and Peace,

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