I grew up in a very small town in eastern Colorado. Seibert was a town of 200 including the cats and dogs. The prime industry was dry-land farming and ranching. The prime produce was winter wheat that was planted in the fall and harvested the next summer in early to mid July. Everyone knew one another and supported those who were experiencing difficulties in their families or in their careers. There was a voluntary fire department where everyone in the community participated when a fire broke out. Everyone had one another’s back and took action when times of necessity dictated.
We had a similar experience when we moved into Bedford, Massachusetts in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a new community of which we were the first home to settle. Everyone who bought after us were given a welcome gift of cookies or a cake as they were moving in. As more people moved in, others got the idea and did the same for their neighbors. I remember when a snow storm came and knocked out all the electricity. All the neighbors came to our house as we were the only one who heated the house with coal. They brought food over and we cooked hot chili and corn bread on our wood/coal stove. The next day the electricity was restored, but taking care of the neighborhood was of prime importance.
I say these things because I ran across a passage in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that gave me pause to think about the neighborhood experiences I’ve been associated with. “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs. Don’t say to your neighbor, ‘Go away! Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow’–when it is there with you. Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you. Don’t accuse anyone without cause, when he has done you no harm.” Proverbs 3:27-30
Neighbors can be a conduit for building family support when we are away from our family of origin. We have the power to reach out in our neighborhoods and build bridges of connection. Procrastination of saying “go away and come back later” stunts the support system from being cultivated.
Solomon also talks about being careful about not causing harm against your neighbor. There was a neighbor feud about 2 miles from our house one time where one neighbor was critical of the cars in the circular drive of another neighbor. The neighbor who was being accused got so made that he took a real corvette and made a 10 foot stand on the island where the circular drive went around and placed the corvette on top of the stand. It stood there for months in rebellion for what the next door neighbor was mad about. The moral of the true story is to be careful about bringing accusations against your neighbor.
On this journey, we have been given people who surround us in our living environments who are called neighbors. Cultivate those relationships rather than bring accusations. They are potential supporters of you when problems come and vice versa.