Neighborliness

Being neighborly…neighborliness 2

“Wouldn’t the world be happier, friends, if in our dealings with one another we could always truthfully say that whatever we thought or said or did expressed the nature of God as divine Love? …This may sound like an impossible goal. But it really isn’t. When we understand how to listen for divine Love’s guidance, there’s no need to be thrown off base by what our neighbor does or doesn’t do. Of course we’re all familiar with the temptations that would upset good relations… a dog or too loud radio keeps someone awake half the night; someone decides a neighbor isn’t good enough, has the wrong kind of name, or perhaps one envies the good thing his neighbor has…But whatever the temptation, we can refuse to be impulsive or spiteful, self-righteous or jealous. Through the understanding of divine Love each of us can learn to be a good neighbor. And a good neighbor doesn’t gossip, criticize, or even wish that he or the folks next door could move away. “
– The Christian Science Sentinel,
December 4, 1954

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good neighbor. So when I stumbled, all unexpectedly, on the article “The Remedy for Neighborhood Tensions” from an old 1954 Christian Science Sentinel, I felt the train of my thoughts come skidding to a halt as I stopped to ponder the ideas the article had to offer me.

As I’ve reflected on “neighborliness” I’ve come to understand that being a good neighbor doesn’t mean we have to “take sides” in neighborhood disputes. I don’t have to hate one neighbor to show love to another. I don’t have to criticize one neighbor, to show friendship to another. I don’t have to gossip about one neighbor, to show support for another. I don’t have to get angry or fired up or militant to take a firm stand for what is right and decent.

Being a good neighbor comes down to this one thing: I simply need to love – without exclusion or discrimination or judgment or condemnation.  That’s my whole job, right there. To love.  I need to see my neighbor as God sees my neighbor – as God’s dear child – beautiful and good and whole and happy.  If I can see my neighbor through the eyes of God, Love, then I won’t be threatened or annoyed or irritated or frightened by him – I’ll enter into dialogue with him expecting to find solutions to conflict, and answers to problems. 

Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  I’m thinking that means that what we want for ourselves, we should want for our neighbors, too. If I want to be trusted, then I need to be willing to trust. If I want to be treated with consideration, than I need to be considerate.  If I want to be shown kindness, then I need to show kindness. 

…And Love is reflected in love.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Cosmic Co-op

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  – H. Jackson Browne, Jr.

For three years I’ve had a view of the Mount Vernon Co-op from my office window. Every now and then I’d gaze out the window and across the freeway at the friendly-looking brick building – watch the customers going in and out of it – and wonder how long it might take me to “get there from here.”  I’d always thought it would be too long – that I wouldn’t be able to get there and back before a student showed up for a session with me at the alternative high school where I work.

But last week I went for it. A couple of students had shown up early for their appointments with me and I found myself with an hour in the middle of the day to do some adventuring. So I donned my backpack and headed down the hill and over the overpass on a reconnaissance. When I got to the bottom of the hill I turned around and headed back to the school, and when I got to my office I realized that it had only taken 10 minutes to get to the bottom of the hill and back!

The next day – knowing now that it didn’t take that long to get to the bottom of the hill and back – I ventured a little further. This time I actually went into the Co-op. I ordered a peach smoothy and brought it back to my office with me. The clock showed that I had only been gone from my desk for 20 minutes!

Since that day I have managed to find time every day to hike down to the Co-op for my peach smoothy, a little exercise, some fresh air, and a quick hobnob with the co-op community..Yesterday I ran into a former teaching colleague and a woman who lived down the street from us 30 years ago – that was way fun. And today I ran into a former student from ten years ago who’d just returned from a trip to Thailand. And this was kind of cool – as I was walking down the hill to go to the co-op this morning, I saw a man approaching me carrying a sign that said “Peace” on it. As we got 30 or 40 yards from each other we both smiled simultaneously at each other, and I held up my fingers in the “peace sign.” He returned the “peace sign” to me, and then veered off the sidewalk to go to the co-op – me following behind him.

I am really enjoying my daily Co-op break.

I wonder who I’ll run into next time?

A Humongo Super Snowball of Kindness

‎”Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank

I’d like to talk for a moment about kind people.

A week ago on my way to work I found I had a little extra time so I decided to stop at the local Starbucks to get a mocha for myself. As I was walking into the coffee shop a gentleman with a pack on his back approached me and started to make small talk. It came to me to ask him if he’d like a mocha and he said that would be fine. So I went into the Starbucks and ordered mochas for the both of us. And then I thought he might appreciate a scone, also. So I told the young woman behind the counter that I wanted to buy a scone for the man in the parking lot, to go along with the mocha I was buying him. The barista smiled and told me she wasn’t going to charge me for the scone – that would be on her. Her generosity – and the happy smile that accompanied her gesture – really touched me. I brought the man his scone and mocha – he was appreciative – and I drove on to work with a big grin in my heart.

A couple days later I found myself in another very similar situation. This time I was walking down the boardwalk to Boulevard Park in Bellingham when I spotted a young man leaning against the rail, holding a big duffel bag, and looking out towards the water. He appeared to have tears in his eyes. “Are you okay?” I asked him, and he nodded his head yes. I asked him if he’d like a warm drink from the Woods coffee shop in Boulevard Park, and he smiled and said, “No, but thanks!” I went on into the Woods any way to get myself something to drink, and when I came out the young man had moved down towards the park. He looked totally dejected. I don’t know what was going on with him, and didn’t ask. But I took one look at him, and said, “I really think you could use this more than me,” and handed him the warm drink. This time he didn’t refuse it – he smiled a genuine smile – his whole face lit up – and took the proffered cup into his hands and thanked me. I left him and went back into Woods to get myself another drink. The barista recognized me, and I explained what had just happened. She smiled and said, “This one’s on us!” and made me another drink for free!

Another day – this one cold, dark, dreary, and pouring down rain – and another espresso – this time The Sisters Espresso, an espresso run by two of my favorite people – Brooke, who used to be one of my eighth graders (and is now in her thirties – which… how the heck did THAT happen?!), and her sister, Courtney. They have these really awesome locally-made marionberry cobbler squares at The Sisters and I was waxing all poetic about these little pieces of heaven to the young man standing in front of me at the counter getting himself a drip coffee. He said he’d have to try one next time. He looked to be wearing outdoors working duds, and I asked him about that. He said he was going to be doing work in an apple orchard that day. “In the pouring rain?!” I asked, and he smiled and said yes. My heart went out to him, but he just smiled at my concern. When it came time for him to pay for his coffee, he told Brooke to put a marionberry square for me on his bill!  I think my mouth fell open a little. “Really?! Are you sure?!” I asked him. And he smiled and said he wanted to do that for me. And I ask you: How cool is that?!

Yesterday, I made a stop at our little Bow post office to pick up my mail and mail some packages. It was busy. Mary the Post Office lady (and I feel so blest we have her taking care of us – she is a treasure) probably didn’t get a break yesterday. I was at the end of the line with no one behind me – and I was glad about that because I was mailing something off to Canada, and that always involves a boatload of customs forms and stuff. By the time I reached the counter, though, people started trickling in behind me and the line started growing and growing and growing – and I was feeling responsible for this. But the guy behind me told me not to worry – he said he was retired and had all the time he needed – and the people behind him were all smiling at me, too – and then someone said something about singing carols – so there we were, singing carols, gabbing and laughing. Mary handed me some papers I could work on at the side while she helped other people – so I went off to the side and started filling out these forms. And now I was talking to myself – “Okay, Karen, so now you write down your address… good… and the weight of the items… they need to add up to 2 lbs 11 oz… 8 plus 8 equals a pound, and then add another pound, and this one is 11 ounces…” and I told the other customers that I’d heard talking to yourself is actually a sign that you trust yourself. One of the other customers piped up, “I’d always heard it was a sign of insanity!” And I said, “That, too!” and we shared a laugh.

I know there may seem to be reasons to be discouraged with our world – if we turn on the news we hear about murder and thievery and war and pestilence and greed. But I think if we all take a moment to really look around us – to connect and banter and laugh with our fellow man – we’ll find there’s also a lot of reason to be encouraged by our world. There’s so much goodness here. There’s generosity, and good humor, and kindness all around us – quiet, unobtrusive, often unnoticed – but, I believe, growing in power – like a little snowball that’s quietly rolling down the hill, picking up more snow as it goes until it’s a humongo Super Snowball of Good. Yeah. Like that. 🙂

Brooke and Courtney

Brooke and Courtney at the Sisters Espresso