Won't you be my neighbour?

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?

A Guide to Borrowing and Lending Books

I love books. I am away for 4 days and I have 4 books with me (not including all the ebooks I have on my tablet).  I'm always talking or writing about what I am reading. I guess I am an extroverted reader. When I like a book, I am convinced everyone who I know or have ever connected with in some tiny way should also read the book. When I've learned something I want everyone else to share in that discovery.


I also lend books. All the time. I like to think I am generous with my books.  I just finished a book today and I have already told two people I would lend it to them now that I am done. The problem is I don't know the first person on the list very well.  I started wondering, "what kind of book borrower is she?" Is she the kind of person who will borrow my book and I will never see it again? Or will she return it after she has read it looking like she dragged it behind her car for a couple hundred kilometers? It's a book she is eager to read AND it's a book I want to keep in my personal library. 

There are a few guidelines I would like to offer to you when you borrow a book. I talk a lot about expectations. When it comes to book lending I think they need to be made clear. 

Sandy's Book Borrowing Guidelines:

1. Establish a time line when you would like the book you are lending returned.  I think a month is reasonable. This guideline serves two purposes for the borrower.  First, they are more motivated to read it sooner and return it. Second, they can take the opportunity to say they won't be able to read it in the next month and decline to take the book.  

2. Return books in good condition. If you borrow a book return it with reasonable wear and tear. If you spill a glass of water on the book consider replacing it. (Helpful hint: Don't use the book as a wine coaster - especially if you drip when you pour.)

4. Don't highlight or underline in the book.

5. Don't lend the book you borrowed to someone else without permission.

6. Put your name in the book you are lending. Don't put your name in the book you borrowed.

7. Make a note of who borrowed your books. I've actually taken a picture of people holding the book when I lend it to them. It's quite funny and when I email them the picture 6 months later asking for my book it makes a pretty good case that they did borrow it.

Those guidelines should cover most of your book borrowing challenges. I was thinking today as I wrote this that it wouldn't be a bad idea putting a bookmark in books I lend. I created two and you can download them below.  One is asking for the book back. The other is for those books you don't want back. I rarely read a novel more than once. When I lend them out I often tell the borrower I don't want it back. The second bookmark will remind them to pass it along instead of returning it.

So, do me a favour. Go through your bookshelf and check for any books you have borrowed and not returned. Take some time in the next week and return them. You might want to include a couple of bookmarks as well.

Download the bookmarks here and here




Thinking about sovereignty

What do you think of when you hear the word sovereignty?

It's not a word I've really thought much about in my life. My initial thoughts are of royalty, the monarchy and the sovereignty of God. I definitely think of authority and power. 

In the past week I've had the word 'sovereignty' show up as a topic on two newsletters I receive. It caught my attention because it is a word I don't hear used frequently, especially in reference to self-development or leadership.

At first I found it very difficult to relate to it as concept in my own life. And I've been sitting with it and thinking about what it means personally.  So, why not write about it?  During this process I decided to do a search on 'personal sovereignty'. And I was surprised that there is so much written on this topic. Surprised in a 'have I been living under a rock' kind of way. 

Nisha Moodley defines it as, "Sovereignty is the union of freedom and power within."  Using this definition, sovereignty is about recognizing and stepping into a place of authority in your own life. It is having boundaries. Learning to disconnect from other people's approval - whether it be checking your social media accounts to see how many 'likes' you have or making decisions to please others.  It is about honouring yourself and claiming your own power in your life and allowing others the right to do the same.  Being in a sovereign relationship with yourself means knowing you are the one who ultimately determines your choices regardless of your circumstances. I think of Viktor Frankl's writings.

Copy of Sovereignty and Mr. Rogers.png

I've been mulling this over and thinking about how looking at each other as 'sovereignty' could alter the way we interact with each other. It's deeper than a flippant 'you do you' attitude but an acknowledgment of all that you are and treating you with respect. It is the 'I-Thou' relationship that Martin Buber writes about. 

One of the emails I received this week was from Christine Valters Paintner. In it she writes, "Sovereignty is in many ways a midlife word. We don’t really begin to live into our own power until we have grown wise enough to recognize our limitations as well."

This week I was watching a video clip of Mr. Rogers. There is a context to that event but I'll just share a clip with you here. I think his gift was to recognize the sovereignty of the other.  Notice how he looks at the boy in this video. It's quite moving. 

Sovereignty. It's a word I want to continue thinking about. And I am entertaining making myself a crown as a visual reminder!