How many of us built big old snowmen on our front lawns today, with big-old grins, waving at the neighbor across the street? Our Snowmen sorta become our mascots for being “good neighbors.” But are we really neighbors?
While I am no architect (but I am a theological analogist), if you drive around the suburbs of your city you will notice an interesting sociological statement being made by the different floor plans. How our houses are laid out reflect our priorities.
In the 1960s most homes did not have a garage, at most there may have been a carport. In fact, earlier homes had large front porches. The flow was from the driveway through the front yard, onto a big porch and into the home. You were forced to engage the bigger neighborhood as you went into your home.
Modern architect, however, has built giant garages with private entrances and decks on the back. You can sneak into the house from your SUV and head to the grill out back behind your privacy fence without ever having to come into contact with your neighbor.
We have intentionally built our lives to be isolated in our “castles.”
A few weeks ago I came across an incredible quote:
“being a neighbor is more than just living in the same neighborhood as someone else.”
The problem is that we are considered the most isolated and lonely generations, yet we are around more people than ever in human history. (I often quote that the population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death—whatever your faith, you have to at least acknowledge that his death was one of the largest world changing events—was thought to be 30,000-40,000 people. That’s less than half the folks who watched the 49ers destroy the Panthers last month.)
So in our society we are inundated with people, but we make really bad neighbors. We see people but we don’t get to know them.
What would look like to actually be a neighbor?
It becomes a little easier in these snowdays. My kids made snow-cream with other kids in the neighborhood. I watched one dad pull out with 7 children to go sledding down the street. I took three other kids in the neighborhood off sledding to give their mothers a reprieve. Today, I found car spinning its tires that needed a push up a hill. For 2 hours, we sledded and laughed with some other neighbors creating videos and memories. I stopped on a run to check in with an old acquaintance. Met a new family who moved two months ago, and watched their son sled into a 4 foot ravine.
Its funny that snowdays sort of force us out of our castles to sled, laugh, build snowmen, drink a beer with that couple we kept meaning to meet, run the slush, and really engage the people around us as neighbors. Piles of snowboots and winter jackets were scattered across our neighborhood as kids moved in and out of homes, and as parents sought to keep up. These people stopped being the people next door, and started to be genuine neighbors.
But the snow will melt tomorrow, and we will all start parking in our garages once again. So what would it look like to become a true neighbor?
Who’s checking in on that single mom three houses over who has been juggling three kids in the cold this week; Or that elderly man you avoid at Halloween, but whose power is out and has no one to talk with this evening; Or the couple whose relationship is fraying desperately thin and are stuck in the house together?
Cause that snowman’s just a mascot.