I did some cat-sitting last weekend for a family that lives a few blocks away.
I only know these folks because I pass their house on walks, and they have an outgoing 8-year-old daughter who’s not shy about engaging passersby in conversation. When I ran into them last week, we got to talking and it turned out they could use some help with the cat while they were out of town.
Next thing I knew I had a job, a new feline friend, and a fair amount of cat hair on my jeans.
Why do I mention this? Because something that should be such an everyday kind of thing is, in my life, so rare. I don’t talk to my neighbors much, even though I work at home and take walks a couple times a day: We smile and wave and exchange a few friendly words now and then, but normally I just keep on moving. I’m busybusybusy, and I don’t have time to stop and engage with the people who live around me. If I did, I’d run the risk of getting caught up in a conversation that might last more than a few seconds. I’ve already got friends, and I prefer to pick ’em out on my own, not get tangled up with folks just because they happen to live in my neighborhood.
I’m afraid I’m pretty typical of people today. When I was a kid, neighbors socialized all the time — partly because moms were at home and got to know each other, partly because life was just slower and people were friendlier. Now more and more people live in apartments, but even those with houses (like me) often have the apartment-dweller’s mentality: Just keep to yourself and keep on moving.
My little adventure in kittysitting was a reminder that I need an attitude adjustment. Jesus said “Love your neighbor,” and the wording’s no accident. We’re not just to seek out and love the people we’d like to associate with, but also to love the people we haven’t sought out but who land in our lives anyway.
That may not mean I need to be best buddies with everyone around me, but I should at least slow down and open the door to relationships, not race by in hopes of minimizing my entanglements. Maybe I’ll bless them in some way, small or large. For all I know, maybe they’ll bless me.
One thing I do know: If I’m going to love my neighbors, the first step is to talk to them.