like a good neighbor

Side note (or pre-note as it were): Gabe told me today after I complimented him on being particularly neighborly, “just call me State Farm.” Little does he know, that’s exactly what I plan to do indefinitely.

So, we live in an apartment complex now. With much more opportunity to see/talk to neighbors than when you live in a sub-division. (Although we loved our neighbors before and will miss them terribly. Talking to you, Amy, JaJa, Florence, Allison, and Jason.) HOWEVER. Even living rightnextdoorto and practicallyontopof people doesn’t mean you automatically start shooting the breeze with them (or even making eye contact).

And this brings up Things We Can Learn From Our East African Friends, Volume 1. They are GREAT neighbors to each other. Sure, to each other, you might be thinking. Well, guess what, when an American family takes a tiny step and shows interest in being their friends, BOOM! Out comes the neighborliness. In full regalia.

Neighborliness at its most basic level is the whole “cup of sugar” phenomenon. Not to quote from one of my own e-books, but… okay, you caught me. Quoting from my own e-book here (a quote which, ironically, includes me quoting someone else):

I’m a natural-born keep-to-myselfer. Heck, as a kid, I used to play board games in my room for hours at a time. Alone. (Well, technically, I was playing against an imaginary opponent named Person, but we won’t go there.) So the cultural trend toward isolation (with technology so often replacing face-to-face interaction) is something I have to consciously push against.

“There was a time when neighbors ‘neighbored’ more than we do today,” Jeanette Lockerbie writes in her little book, A Cup of Sugar, Neighbor. She explains that before supermarkets and easy access to corner stores, neighbors often borrowed from each other when they ran out of something. This invariably led to friendly visiting…”

She goes on to say that we just don’t do this any more. And her book was written in 1974. So you can only imagine how “far” we’ve come in the last 40 years.

(You should totally pick up my e-book, by the way. It’s called Once Upon the Internet, and it tells the true tale of our family going to 52 Zoos in 52 Weeks and staying with people we met online. Fun stuff.)

Anyway. Last night, we had our neighbors Hodan and Mohammed and their four adorable kiddos over for dinner (they had us over first). And our American neighbors, Josh and Laura, too. Somehow we got to talking about how Laura and I have been borrowing things from each other a lot the past few days. (Can I borrow a can of beans? Do you have any peanut butter? Parchment paper? Mini sweet peppers? Clean underwear? Kidding. I only get those at the thrift store.)

Gabe said that Americans don’t typically do that kind of thing, and Mohammed asked why in the world not.

I said I think part of it is pride. We don’t like to need help. We want to be self-sufficient.

He clearly thought that was silly.

So do I.

Why wouldn’t you want to help your neighbor in need? And then, when you’re in need, they help you? It sounds eerily similar to something I read in my favorite book once.

“…as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness…” (2 Corinthians 7:14)

So we told our Somali friends that we admire the way they do things, and we want to be more like them in that way.

We want to hold our possessions loosely. We want to share with abandon. We want to be part of a true community.

We want to be good neighbors.

Speaking of good neighbors, Josh and Laura went to Lowe’s and had a key made for us. A key to their apartment. We’re going to return the favor.

If you’d like more detailed info/prayer requests about our Life at Abbey Lane than what I’ll be sharing on the blog, please contact me here, and I’ll add you to a special e-mail list. I’ve only sent out one update so far, so you aren’t behind much at all.

And hey, if you haven’t heard, I released a new e-book last week called, We Dream of Cambodia. I’d love it if you’d check it out. And I’d double-love it if you’d share it with friends.

Now. Who wants a free PDF of either Once Upon the Internet or We Dream of Cambodia? Just leave a comment telling me 1.) which e-book you want and 2.) something neighborly you’ve done or plan to do this week.

23 thoughts on “like a good neighbor

  1. Pingback: shipwrecked | Marla Taviano

  2. Nancy

    One more thing… Your readers from the south might not understand this “un-neighborliness” you speak of. We lived in Richmond, VA for 4 years (“best years of our lives” we call them) and we knew more neighbors there in the first month (15 families) than we did in all the years in Michigan combined! It’s a totally different world. Probably like your new community. We are all missing out! I love following you guys on this journey. Keep it up and you might just win Neighbor of the Year! πŸ™‚

  3. Kelly

    I just finished reading We Dream of Cambodia. So glad you wrote it! To be honest, at first I thought I wouldn’t be too interested because I have already read all your posts about Cambodia when you were there… But I am so glad I read it bc it was super interesting and well written! Blog posts are great but a book is so much more cohesive! It was rough to read all the stuff though about you wanting to move there knowing two years later you’re not back yet! But I trust and know our faithful God already knows the end of the story HE is writing, and how that involves you all and Cambodia!!

    I would love to read once upon the Internet. I think I probably got it at some point, but I never read it and don’t know where it is right now. πŸ™‚

    1. Kelly

      Just realized I never commented on being neighborly. We will move to Asia in June and We are living in total transition right now, a week at my parents and a week at my husbands parents. It is tough to be truly neighborly in this! This week though we are visiting people who support our work, so we made some of those jars filled with soup mix to give as gifts. Not for neighbors, but seems like the sort of thing that would be nice to do for a neighbor. πŸ™‚ does that count?

    2. Marla Taviano

      You are so sweet! And I agree–a book is much more cohesive. That’s part of why I wrote it, just to have it all in one place (for myself and anyone else who’s interested). Will get Once Upon the Internet to you ASAP. xoxoxo

  4. Katie

    I would love a copy of your Cambodia book, and I have been challenged as a new neighbor to reach out to our neighbors. We try to invite them to do things with us whenever there is a free event in the community, and we regularly go for walks and hope to bump into them. We also hope to have a BBQ this summer to invite multiple neighbors together to get to know each other πŸ™‚ I continue to love your life! I love your stories! I shared what your family is doing with my students – they were shocked. When I told them that your girls were sharing a room and one small closet, they were even more shocked. They were struggling to imagine themselves in “that situation” for more than a few days… It made me sad. They really have no idea what they are missing out on! It made me want to have a “camp” where we rent a couple of apartments here in Charlotte for a couple of months and live there over the summer. They could do it – and they would be so grateful for it in the end, I know it!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Oh, wow. You should totally do the camp!! I want to hear more about your students. What do you teach? (sending you We Dream of Cambodia via fb msg!) p.s. thanks for the encouragement, friend!!

  5. brooke

    I’m a horrid neighbor. leave me alone. stop asking me for things.
    not milk and bread and stuff. but a going away gift for a dude who sold his house. and a baby gift for someone’s 2nd kid. these are not needs, but rather “kind” gestures I feel forced to gift. yikes. I’m hateful. awesome.
    so then a request of prayers for me playing hostess at our monthly HOA meeting this Thursday go without saying, right?
    #uppermiddleclasswhitetrashproblems

    1. Marla Taviano

      Yikes. I’m not good with that kind of thing either. In fact, I have a reeeeeeally hard time with our culture’s tendency to give unnecessary, meaningless gifts–especially to people we have no relationship with. Boo. Praying for you to be all hands-and-feet-of-Jesus at that meeting. πŸ™‚ xoxoxo

      1. brooke

        ack- what a burden to minister to the over-privileged! πŸ˜‰ feel free to slap me at any time. I’m pretty sure this is God’s way of humbling me. “Listen here chica – you say you wanna serve? Are you sure you just don’t want the glory? Here – have some people who need nothing and expect you to do things for them. See how much you like that kinda service.”
        ouch.
        (and yes I know God is much nicer than that)
        and yes, I’ll stop rambling in your comment section. πŸ˜›

        1. Nancy

          I just had to add my 2 cents… Why do we only want to give to those who need it? (I tend to be the same way) When my daughter was in Young Life in high school, the leader of her small group gave everyone $10 or $20 to give away and then they were to come back and tell about it. No rules. Just give. I started brainstorming with her what she could do with it. Leave it on someone’s car anonymously? Me: “But it would have to be a really junky car….so we’d know the person really needed it.” Wise daughter: “Mom, it’s a gift. It doesn’t matter.” Then we’d come up with another idea and I’d do the same thing, wanting to make sure it went to someone who needed/deserved it. She kept trying to pound it into my head that God doesn’t consider need when lavishing his gifts on us. Good thing I had kids or I wouldn’t learn anything.

          1. Marla Taviano

            I see what you’re saying, Nancy, but God gives to us because he LOVES us (and sometimes because we need it). Giving to someone who you don’t love (and have no relationship with) AND who doesn’t need anything doesn’t seem like quite the same thing to me. (my one cent)

  6. Missy Robinson

    During my time of greatest need, I was unable to reach out (paralyzed by fear/pride/overwhelmed, etc.) but was SO BLESSED by many who acted neighborly without being asked. Ladies brought me baked goods and meals, helped me with my children and sat with me when I was emotionally empty. Literal neighbors checked in on me, mowed my lawn (for three years!) and included us in the car pool. Being a part of community is a human treasure and my greatest source of wealth in life so far!

    These days, my circumstances aren’t so dire and I’m seeking to look for those who need the neighborly hand. I learned others likely won’t ask, but there are many who still need the encouragement and helping hand.

  7. Rachelle

    1) I bought We Dream of Cambodia!
    2) living in a very rural area has lots of challenges, one being that there are many needs but most people pride themselves on not letting anyone know. We have ancestors that survived here through the depression you know!! Our plan is to share Macey’s eggs. Her chickens don’t know its winter and we got 21 eggs today!

  8. Lisa

    Great post, Marla!

    I’d love to (also) have your Once Upon The Internet (did I get the other one for sharing your book on my page?)

    Don’t wanna toot my horn here, but you asked….I offered to do some SEO work on a website for a Homeless Ministry here in town…. http://WarmStreets.org – they do a great work and it’s so cool to watch! In fact, our church opened their doors to homeless and elderly people (Salvation Army full and pipes froze at a nursing home) when it was so bitterly cold last week – said one man who came to stay: “I thought I would have a warm place to sleep and maybe a meal….but I came here and found God!”
    Our church was teeming full of people who came to bring supplies and love on the guests. When the church acts like the church, amazing things happen.

    Now THAT’S worth it all, isn’t it?
    Love you!

  9. Denise Dilley

    Love this!

    I agree that one of the reasons we don’t do the whole neighborly thing is an issue of pride. People just don’t like to ask for help. I know I don’t. I think the other thing is that people hold too tight to what is “mine.” I know I do sometimes.

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