‘Tis the Season to Love My Neighbors

It’s not quite Halloween, but the department stores and kids’ fundraisers have already told us it’s almost Christmas time. I have pondered for a long time about giving a gift to each of my neighbors. I’ve been exploring meeting them in increasing encounters, and while I haven’t met all of them just yet, I already have been thinking about greeting them with a small present on their doorsteps.

[I of course would first ring the doorbell and see if they are home…I don’t intend to cheat on my neighbor project.]

I love Pinterest just for its assistance in finding the cutest things to adorn my neighbors’ homes. There are things crafty and ornate, yet inexpensive to make (which I LOVE, because while I’m not an extreme, coupon-clipper; I do like to save a buck when possible).  So far, I’ve found adorable food items, such as the cup of hot chocolate mix below:

and these sweet coasters:

or I might just keep it simple and address our annual family photo Christmas card to each of my neighbors, stamp and all.  That’s not creepy right?

I need to think some more on this giving.  I know the best thing I could give them is the Word and the knowledge of Christ’s love.  How do I give those out to people I still don’t very well know?

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Diffident Observer Equals Diffident Voter

I hate discussing politics.  The fact that I’m writing about them now causes all sorts of nauseousness rising in me like a volcano.  The main reason I hate discussing them is because, the “conversation” is mostly me listening to someone else rant about why such-and-such president/candidate is not a good fit for our country.  I’m not that passionate about either side, because I don’t take sides.  I’m a peacemaker, a stand-in-the-corner-while-others-hash-it-out type, a write-about-it-later-but-never-utter-a-word-in-person type.

I hold personal beliefs that both Democrats and Republicans are for and against and so I can never decide.   When I listen to political debates, all I hear is “money, money, money” and “this is who should get it.”  As a Christian voter, I’m equally torn.  Many Christians believe that in order to fix our country we need to tell people that they can’t have abortions and they can’t be gay.  Many Christians believe it’s not right to favor those who won’t take personal responsibility and clean up, shape up, and move up the economic ladder. Alternatively, other Christians feel it is right to be the voice for the lower class, even when some of those in this class don’t try to help themselves.

I find myself adhering to my Republican beliefs when I am among my conservative friends and my Democratic beliefs when I am with my liberal friends.  This shapeshifting is a conundrum for the undecided voter.  I want to be true to myself, but there are just some issues that I worry about facing if I vote a particular way.

It turns out, I won’t get to vote a particular way, or justify my actions to my conservative or liberal friends. I recently looked up my voter status, because I couldn’t remember seeing my card anywhere.  It was effective September 2008 through January 2012.  Awesome.

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I’d like to end this post with a Bible verse:  1 Timothy 6:7-10

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Neighbors: Follow Through

I’ve had two successes with my neighbor project since my last post, but I’m hesitant to blog about them.  I don’t want to get to that point where I start to believe that my success has been all me, and I don’t want my readers to believe that about me either.  However, I still would like to share my experiences.

About a week ago, my husband and I were outside with all our kids, enjoying the sunshine and semi-cool weather (it was probably 90 degrees, but in Texas that is cool).  There were two little kids, a girl and a boy, that looked like they were my son’s age.  My husband wandered up the street and began talking to their mom.  I don’t know how he does it – no two minute argument with himself about whether he should go up there and introduce himself – no, he just goes.  Anyway, since he self-initiated, I took it as my opportunity to introduce myself to someone else on our street and as an opportunity to have some material to talk about later!  She was originally from the area, had moved away, and then came back because of the school district – the same reason we moved here; it is highly recognized.  Her children were three year old twins; like I had guessed, the same age as my son.  Yes, I had the previous excitement as I had had before – envisions of birthday parties, same game events to attend, maybe a prom date in my son’s future.  We had a great introductory talk and commiserated about the sugar ants that invade our houses when it is so dry outside.  Our kids played awhile, and then we went our separate ways.  It was so easy, but of course, my husband helped.

I’m starting to see a new confidence about myself evolve.  However, as it does, I’m also starting to be pressed about the follow-through part of introducing yourself to your neighbors.  You can’t build relationships from introductions.  You have to go back.  I’m definitely feeling God’s pressing for me to go back, but what do I do?  Ask to borrow some sugar? Take people their mail?  Do I have to meet all of my neighbors on my street before I start my follow-throughs?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated…

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My second success wasn’t towards a physical neighbor, but rather a random person I met at a playground, so a ‘biblical neighbor’ I will call her.  It was a fellowship night for our small group at church, and we decided to have lunch after church at a local park.  Of course, my son didn’t want to eat – there’s just something about a chance to swing and play that makes a hunger ache not so apparent for kids.  As I ate, I carefully watched him, because I’m just that neurotic.  He had instantly made a friend, because he just talks to anyone, another reason I have to neurotically watch him.  At one point I turned around, and he had begged a woman to put him in a toddler swing and push him.  I could feel my two minute argument with myself beginning:

“go over there and talk to her.”

“No, butt out, she’ll think I’m weird.”

“You could just thank her for pushing your kid.”

“Yeah, I guess, I probably should, but then what do I say?”

Loudly, I said, “oh man, Emry just made that lady push him.”

God replied in the voice of my friend, “well, there’s your opportunity.”

“Grrr,” I thought.  “I’m really going to have to do this, aren’t I?”  Sheepishly, I got up and headed that way.  I stepped next to her and took over and said, “thank you for pushing him, he’s relentless.”  She nodded back to me, but didn’t say much more.  We stood there for several minutes, pushing our kids in silence.  “Think Kristel; think of something, anything to say.”

“How old is your son?” I said.

“Oh, he not my son, he my grandson,” she said in broken English.  The woman looked my age, so I was quite shocked.

“Oh, wow” I said, “you look like his mom.”

She smiled and nodded again.  Why did I feel like she didn’t know much English?  Either that or she was really shy, like me.  Then she spoke to her grandson…in Spanish.  ‘Okay, Kristel, you’ve been preparing for this – you’ve written before about “quiero practicar mi Español contigo” – this is your opportunity to do it – hacerlo’.  But I was stuck, what do I say?  I’ve already thanked her for pushing my son, and I inquired about her a bit…what more can I say to this woman whom I’m awkwardly staring at as she pushes her grandson in his swing.  If I don’t say something soon, she’s going to think I’m a freak.  My eyes are sweating as my brain runs around in my head, searching the archives for my conversation topics I can talk about in Spanish.

Finally, “conozco Español un poco.  Necessito praticarlo.”

“Si,” she said.

‘Great, I’ve made a fool of myself; I mispronounced everything I was trying to say.’  I tried to recover.  “Como se dice, “grandson” in Español?” I asked her.

“Nieto,” she said.

“Nieto,” I repeated.  She smiled.  So she either thought, ‘yay, this person is trying to speak Spanish, or LOL, this person is trying to speak Spanish’.   “Y, nieto por ella es ‘nieta?’” I continued.

She confirmed this with a nod.  Then she asked me something really fast, and honest to God, I have no idea what it was.  I nodded back, and for all I know I just said I was King Kong and was breeding baby King Kongs to take over the world.  We pushed the kids some more, and sensing that our conversation might be ending, I said, “gracias por hablando conmigo,” not really remembering if that was correct verbiage or not.  Hopefully she knew what I meant.  I gathered my kids and headed back to excitedly tell my small group my conversation.

I admit that I felt like I should have said something about Jesuschristo.  After I reported my conversation, I started to feel a bit defeated, because I hadn’t used the opportunity to share my experience with God; just to practice my Spanish.  I try to remind myself that it was obeying that made the effort successful.  I won’t ever know if our conversation meant anything to her, but rarely do we ever know the repercussions of our actions towards others.  I hope that the fact that I tried was good enough.  I guess it will all depend on if when the next opportunity comes, that I follow-through.