“Always we begin again.” – St. Benedict
I’ve lost count of the number of times I laced up my shoes and walked our neighborhood in the weeks that followed our friend’s move. There’s something about physical movement that kick starts my brain.
I walked and I worked on paying attention.
There were more questions than answers: Why do people move? Why can’t they just stay put?
The cost of investing in people and places filled my thoughts as I passed the white house near the end of the street. A new family moved into that house a month ago. I haven’t met them yet.
I loathe small-talk. I’m struck with the reminder again as I’m thinking through what it means to care about my literal neighbors– the people who live nearby, the people who attend my church, the families I interact with who live in our town or who attend our homeschool tutorial or my son’s school. Is there a way to do this without the awkwardness?
I’m going to have to do small-talk. Darn it.
Here’s where I say something ridiculous, but true. If I’m honest, I want some sort of guarantee that if I’m going to endure the awkward beginning stages of a friendship, that person better stay around for a while.
I just read that sentence again and I’m cringing.
How do I reconcile my desire for friends who stay put with the reality that 7 of the 10 houses closest to us in our neighborhood are now occupied by renters or families who have moved in the last 4 years?
I’m tempted to view potential friends through a grid that evaluates how likely they are to stick around.
I get nervous when friends start talking about moving. It makes me want to retreat. As if holding back in a friendship ever protected my heart.
I overheard a woman talking about this very thing recently. She said how hesitant she was to invest in building a relationship with her neighbors who happen to be renting. “I don’t want to do all of this work if they are just going to move. . .”
I have empathy for her sentiment, but we’re both wrong. Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Ashley Hales who wrote the book Finding Holy in the Suburbs. She said something that speaks to this. I reached for my pen to write it down. She mentioned that our suburban lives can easily lend to making us function as consumers of people and place.
That’s what I’m doing when I weigh my relationships based on what’s in it for me.
The temporary neighbor needs a friend just as much as the one who is going to live next door for the next two decades. While I long for guarantees of friends that live nearby for a long time, there are none. That renter across the street may surprise me and stay. The family who owns the house next door may decide to move. The new friendship that doesn’t feel like a great fit doesn’t need to be discarded.
This is what I’m thinking when I notice cars in front of the house across the street. We’ve been wondering who would rent that house. I awkwardly walk up their driveway and introduce myself.
Yes, this is what beginning again looks like.
I don’t know if this couple will become our close friends. For now, I know they have a dog (a pug-mix, like ours) and, I’m trying to remember their names and wondering if it’s too late to ask again without embarrassing myself.