Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Neighbors? What Neighbors?

Growing up in town, we had neighbors. My brother and I had kids our age to pal around with, old ladies down the street to mow lawns for (well, he did...I watched). Neighbors were easy to name for us: Lindsay and Corey, Ruth, Jessie, Matt and get the point.

However, the term neighbor around here is a relative one. My girls have an idea what having neighbors is like, thanks to our "town friends," but yesterday, as I was getting dinner ready for a neighboring family who just had a baby (neighboring, meaning, three miles up the road and over), my girls were inquisitive.

Not just because I was actually organized and getting dinner, sides and a dessert ready before supper time without weeping over the stove, but because who were these people? Where do they live?

And, the most poignant questions:

What neighbors?
We don't have neighbors!

Well, technically they are not side-by-side neighbors, but I am realizing that in the country neighbor is really a word with a fluid definition.

Neighbors are folks who farm next to our fields. Neighbors are houses about a mile away, who wave as they pass our house. Neighbors are people you help when you're shorthanded, or, in one case, have a fire and need extra tractors and hands.

Neighbors are not defined by geographic location and property lines in the country.

They're defined by relationships.

Sure, Craig and Tammy and their kids are not our next door neighbors, but Joe and Craig share the love of livestock and farming, and Tammy and I can commiserate about having little kids, and their kids may ride our kids' bus some on the same sports team, dance at the same recital. It's all relative out here, all relational, not one bit geographical.

I like that idea, but it's something I am still getting used to. There are times I crave my kids to have friends to rides bikes with, and I wonder what it would be like to just waltz over to a neighbor's house after dinner. Sure, country living is quiet, there's a lot of space, but it can be lonely sometimes, and unless you make a concerted effort, neighbors can just be folks who share a zip code, fence line, or maybe a gravel road, but not a relationship.

 However, shouldn't being neighborly be less limited to geography, and more concerned with relationships? relationships?

 Answer: yes.

As country folks, we have to make a lot of effort to talk to neighbors, but that makes the conversations, gatherings, etc., more worthwhile, more intentional. That's a good thing, right? It makes these relationships we have with our neighbors are way more important than  geography.

So, I will try (note the word, try) to be more neighborly. I will try to get out in my 'hood and get to know the folks. Maybe that will make me more organized with dinner preparations....


  1. My husband and I have this same conversation! He insists that the people who live 2 miles up the road are our neighbors... but I grew up in the suburbs so unless they're within (easy) walking distance, they're not neighbors! But we do have relationship-neighbors all over the county (and all over the state). I'm like you - it's easy to stay home by myself, but I need to make an effort to go out and be neighborly to all our "neighbors."

  2. I feel the same way! I grew up in a city and had kids to play with, now it's a lot different. I mean, our neighbors are a lot closer than yours are, but nothing compared to having a bunch of houses smashed together down a city street. Quiet, yes. Boring sometimes, yes. Nice not having someone be able to look in your bathroom window, most definitely!