[Christianity Today] 27 Feb 2009--Most people, when they move, picture the ideal neighborhood: friendly couples, with well-behaved children, who drop by (always at the perfect time) with a plate of cookies—or perhaps to mow your lawn.
What we get, too often, falls far short of residential utopia: streets and subdivisions full of busy people who barely have enough time and energy to tend to their own lives, let alone take an active interest in their neighbors'. On a good day, we get eye contact and a quick wave. On a bad day, we get the guy from three houses down stomping across our back yard, swearing at Elvis, his loose beagle. (Hey, at least we know the dog's name now.)
And we feel guilty: Guilty that we don't find the time—or more often, the courage—to knock on a neighbor's door or approach them in the yard. Guilty that our neighborhoods seem cold and unfriendly and that we're not helping matters. And, most importantly for Christian couples, guilty that our home is not a beacon for a neighborhood full of lost souls.
All of which begs questions. How can we establish connections and, eventually, real, caring friendships with the people behind those doors and across those fences? How can we be strong Christian witnesses to our neighbors without coming off as the too-perfect-to-be-true Flanders family from The Simpsons?