In the duplex just north of her we have a set of neighbors. As far as we can tell, the vehicle to human ratio is something like 3:1. We couldn’t tell you if they have jobs, because they don’t seem to have a repetitive schedule. Underneath their deck is a pile of toys, bicycles and who-knows-what braving the weather. From time to time we see them yelling at each other. They aren’t particularly well-dressed, or very well-kempt for that matter. Most of the time, they look pretty angry. And un-welcoming. So we’ve kept our distance a little bit. We haven’t been purposefully rude, we just haven’t been anything at all to them.
And I wonder sometimes when I speculate about them, what they must speculate about me. Here’s what they probably know about me:
- I am, by all appearances, married
- I have never washed either of our cars
- I drive the silver suv
- I have never mowed the lawn
- I sometimes go on walks with my kid
- I have a kid, but they can’t tell if it’s a girl or boy because that goofy girl keeps dressing her in blue, red, green, or denim.
- I play guitar as evidenced by my cramming a guitar case in the back seat of our car every so often
Well, that’s about it. It isn’t much. And sometimes I feel kinda guilty about it. Like maybe I should actually call out a hello from across the street. Or maybe I should cross the street to introduce myself. Or maybe I should make small talk whenever I see them around. Or maybe I should invite them over for coffee. Or maybe I should invite them to church and have them over to Sunday dinner. Or...or...or... And then the feelings over being overwhelmed overtake me and I chicken out, slack off and do...nothing.
I’m not such a good neighbor, I’m afraid. I could be better. I want to be. But I’m kinda scared and just really unsure.
But a few days ago, I took Reagan outside to walk around and burn off some energy - preferably hers and not mine. We walked up and down the sidewalk, most of them Reagan running and me trailing behind with a firm grip on the hood of her coat should she trip and fall. She’s chasing leaves and picking them up and throwing them in the air. Seriously, can this kid just for a moment be NOT SO FRIGGIN ADORABLE! Out of the corner of my eye I see my neighbor lady get into one of the working vehicles, start it up, and back out of her driveway. I begin the flurry of thoughts - what do I do, do i wave, do i ignore her, do i just smile, do i try to make eye contact, do i pretend to be busy tying Reagan’s shoelace? SUCK IT UP, WOMAN! I say to myself. I look up as she drives slowly past, she looks at me, smiles and waves. And just like that I smile warmly in return and wave a friendly hello. See, that wasn’t so hard! And now I feel so much better. They can add one more thing to their list about me. And I’ll add one to my list about them.
- They smile and wave when they drive by.
It’s a start.