For years I have lived in the same house. For years I have said “hello” to my neighbors. For years I have been a member of my neighborhood. And yet, if my life depended upon it, I could not tell you the names of more than a small handful of my neighbors.

But I see my neighbors all the time … as I am pulling into or backing out of my driveway, dressed in my “Sunday Best,” on my way to church. Most of my neighbors don’t work on Sundays, most don’t go to church, and many are outside, sometimes with family, when I am coming from and going to church. But I still do not know their names, not many of them anyway.

I was born and raised in North American Suburbia. Things have always been the way they are—in my mind, at least. My grandfather, however, he tells me of a time when things were different. He remembers when a community was, well, it was a community. Borrowing cups of sugar, and eggs, and milk, and even lawnmowers, ladders, and hammers was a routine way of life. There was interdependency, a tightly woven infrastructure, to North American communities. Tommy Kienze could receive a whipping from Obie Blanchard. Obie’s kids could receive the same from Tommy’s dad. Families were tied together, bound together, interdependent, simply because they were neighbors.

This day and age I don’t need to borrow my neighbor’s lawnmower—I’ve got one of my own. To do otherwise would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it? Besides, it would be embarrassing to borrow someone’s lawnmower before learning his name. I don’t need him to watch my house either; I’ve got a monitored alarm system to do that. I don’t need him to feed my pet (paid kennels), water my yard (timed sprinkler system), check my mail (online holds available), or grab my newspaper out of the driveway when I’m on vacation (see previous). And, again, having to ask would be irresponsible.

Truth be told, I don’t need my neighbors for much of anything. Most of the time I’m too busy going to and coming from church to even meet them. Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would say about a religious system that forms me into a better Church Member than it requires me to be a Christian Neighbor.

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