Everyone has a neighbour story. My mom's next door neighbours now live with her - that's a pretty successful neighbour story. But that wasn't always the case, we had some really crazy neighbours when I was growing up - we were convinced the woman that that lived next door was an exotic dancer based on how she washed her car in her teeny tiny white bikini with the fringe top. It was a topic of conversation in the 'hood.
I've been thinking about neighbours this week. Last Monday we had our new neighbours over for dinner. They moved in almost a year ago and for too long we've been saying, 'We will have you over for dinner." So we finally made time to get together. They just got married this summer and are starting out in life. It was really fun getting to know them and hearing about their work and backgrounds.
On Saturday night I was at a friend's place and the topic of neighbours came up. She has a crazy neighbour. I'm talking mean-spirited, rodent-feeding type of crazy. The kind of person you hope isn't outside when you pull in the driveway. I was surprised how many people shared stories of frustration with neighbours. Neighbours seem to be the cause of a lot of anger and calls to the police. Yikes!
There was a murder this week in the suburbs near Hamilton. When the neighbours in this upper-middle class community were questioned by reporters, no one knew the victim. "We are a quiet neighbourhood where people keep to themselves," one person said with obvious pride. I thought how that sounded a lot like the hallmark of civility. Let's just keep to ourselves.
I live on a city street where you can't avoid your neighbours. It's definitely not the suburbs. Thankfully we have mostly good neighbours and the crazy ones keep to themselves - except when they have been drinking a lot. But our neighbours all care about the street and the city. We watch out for each other. We have a Facebook page where anything suspicious or community impacting is shared. It's a front porch culture although I prefer the privacy of the back deck. (I think I am a suburbanite at heart.) I have been stretched to grow in my relationships with the people I see every day outside my house.
Last night I watched a documentary that I know is going to stay with me for a long time. Won't You Be My Neighbour? is the story of Mr. Rogers. You can watch the trailer here:
I remember my son watching Mr. Rogers. He loved to imitate him when he came in the house and he would toss his little shoes just like his hero. It was no surprise when he recommended this movie to us. About 15 minutes into it I stopped it so I could get my journal. There were so many things I want to capture.
Mr. Rogers had a simple theology - Love Your Neighbour and Love Yourself. As I write about what it looks like to have a healthy spirituality those two ideals stand out to me. Mr Roger's spoke to children about some very troubling ideas - racism, assassination, terrorism, divorce, and death. He didn't shy away from the tough topics but he reminded us that we have a role to play for each other and we aren’t alone.
Loving yourself and loving your neighbour. If we started there what could change in our world? What small thing could you do for a neighbour this week? Could you bring up their recycling bins that are blowing around? Share the bounty of your garden? It's the little things that build relationships over time. Mr. Rogers knew that our neighbourhoods are a microcosm for our larger world. If we can't live in peace with the people around us how will we achieve peace on a larger scale?