It was dinnertime, a few days after Hurricane Matthew had blown over North Carolina. After about a day and a half without power to most of the town, the lines were back up and running. Thankfully most of our family’s cold food had survived the outage, so I didn’t have to drive around looking for grocery stores that still had perishables in stock.
On this particular evening, however, I wasn’t going to need them…I was going to make homemade pizza. The kids were overjoyed. I got to work.
…And that’s when I noticed I was out of eggs.
Those of you who make their own pizza are probably wondering why this would be a problem, since pizza dough doesn’t often include eggs. But this was a gluten-free mix, I was in a hurry, and I didn’t want to ruin a good pizza with experimentation. At the same time, I didn’t want to pack all the kids in the car and run to the store, where they very well might still be out of eggs. It was already on the late side to be making dinner, and running out would only set things further behind. So I did something I think I’ve only done one other time since childhood: I ran across the street and asked a neighbor if I could “borrow” a couple of eggs.
It may seem silly to consider this an occurrence significant enough to warrant a blog post. Neighbors are supposed to help each other out, right? Isn’t that what they are for?
Well, maybe for some people. But I have lived in the same neighborhood for almost eight years now, and I am ashamed to admit that I still barely know my neighbors. Part of it is the fact that my husband and I are not particularly outgoing, and neither (apparently) are most of our neighbors. We will wave or say hello when we happen to see each other outside, but it’s pretty rare that we have a decent conversation.
But another part of it, I think, is that we live at a very convenient distance away from pretty much whatever we might need. There is a grocery store right down the street, a Target and a Walmart not much farther away, fast food, pharmacies, home improvement stores…all within a 5-minute drive. When you have all these conveniences at your fingertips, it is not hard to feel self-sufficient.
In fact, it might seem irresponsible to have to ask a neighbor for something when, in most cases, you could just hop in the car, buy it, and be back home within half an hour.
Yet the sweet lady across the road from me was very happy to give me a couple of eggs. I would have been glad to do the same for her if circumstances had been reversed. In the wake of the hurricane, I also saw multiple people posting offers on Facebook for folks without power to come over and take a hot shower.
When an ice storm knocked out power lines last winter, some families from our church opened up their homes to one another to prevent anyone having to sleep in a chilly house. And a few years ago, when an emergency sent me to the hospital in an ambulance, a couple of neighbors sent my husband off to join me and watched our children until a friend arrived.
The thing is, I think many of us are quite happy to help one another. But because we all like to give off an air of self-sufficiency, we don’t often ask for help. In our age of modern convenience, we frankly don’t need it as much. Texting, internet, and social media have even eliminated much of the need for face-to-face communication. Yet I think most of us still crave those personal connections with those around us.
I have to wonder whether this whole phenomenon isn’t driving a further wedge between us in an already divided nation. While the internet can connect us to a wider variety of people and open our minds to different experiences and viewpoints, it can also serve to confirm our biases and harden our views even more. Conversations on the internet are often more about talking at rather than to one another, with neither side truly listening to the other. And because many of us don’t find it necessary to lean on one another as neighbors—building relationships and learning more about one another on a deeper level—our limited perspectives may not be challenged in the way they might be otherwise.
As we sit on the verge of possibly the messiest and most divisive presidential election in living memory, I have heard several of my friends express a desire to flee to some remote location and escape the fallout. (I might have been guilty of this sentiment myself.) I know it is just a joke, but honestly…When the majority of voters are voting against the other candidate rather than for their own, you know things are not good.
And yet, what if instead of huddling in a corner with our guns, we did just the opposite? What if we reached out to our neighbors, willing to offer support, willing to be vulnerable? What if, instead of focusing on all the areas in which we disagree or disapprove, we focused instead on simply loving one another? Perhaps that might be more significant in the end than our vote.
You see, as much as we may feel that the law is what makes the most difference in our nation, I believe the heart makes much more of a difference. If we engage our neighbors’ minds in debate without engaging their hearts through relationship, there is a good chance that we won’t change anything.
Clearly, though, I am not the person to ask for practical ideas on how to accomplish this change! So I’d love to hear from you: How do you establish relationships with your neighbors?
Photo Credit: all images courtesy of Jessica Cole.