This story starts with my stalking another family.
Last spring, our neighbors in the house to our left moved out without saying goodbye. It wasn’t much of a surprise.
We’ve lived in our home for over eight years. During most of that time, an elderly lady and her adult son were our next-door neighbors. We were friendly but didn’t have much in common. The tenants that followed, a middle-aged woman with two teenage children, were pleasant but busy, so we didn’t see much of them.
Copyright: oksanaok / 123RF Stock Photo
When the owners were preparing the house to rent out again, I decided to be aggressively friendly to find out who was moving in. I’m so glad I asked. Turns out, the new tenants were a family moving from Texas with two small children. I was super excited. On our block, we have been the only household with young children. Although we have many friends, we have never had neighbor friends. I started counting the days until our new neighbors moved in.
When the day arrived, I kept an eye on the house for any signs of movement all day. I had a card, bouquet of flowers, and a pie ready to give them. But the sun set with no sign of them.
As I was getting ready to go upstairs to bed, I saw a light on next door. They were there! I quickly grabbed my welcome gifts and headed next door. I rang the doorbell. No answer. Maybe they were putting the kids to bed? I didn’t know what to do. I began to rethink my strategy of ringing someone’s doorbell after 9 p.m. Maybe not such a good idea? I worried that I was going a little overboard. Was I becoming a stalker? I left the flowers and the card by the front door, and headed back home.
I decided I needed to cool my jets so I didn’t scare them off—or cause them to call the police. The next few days I saw very little activity at the house. Maybe they had changed their minds or found another home to rent?
But then, one day, they were there: a mom, a dad, and two kids. The mom and kids had traveled a few days behind the dad, who had just started his new job. And just as I had hoped, it was the beginning of a great friendship.
We started doing play dates and having dinner together. We celebrated our children’s birthdays together. I introduced her to my friends, who then became her friends. We shared each other’s stories. Our kids played well together sometimes, and not so well other times.
Having a friend living in such close proximity adds a layer of involvement and commitment to friendship, if you let it. And that involvement and commitment can result in a greater layer of joy and depth of meaning.
It could have gone down a different path. I already have lots of friends. I’m also busy taking care of three little kids and volunteering at school and church. I could have kept to myself, waved to them when I saw them, and gone on with my busy life. I could have found a thousand things to do instead of opening up my messy home and inviting them in. I didn’t know ahead of time if they would be different, unfriendly, or unlike me.
I could have chosen differently. But this time I chose to put myself out there, to be brave and vulnerable and seek out a new friendship. I took a risk.
I can’t take all the credit for choosing wisely this time. I believe that God placed this family on my heart and grew my love for them before they even came to California. And I’m so grateful I listened to His voice.
At the beginning of December, the family moved fifteen minutes away to a bigger home with more space for their new baby. Now we will need to be more intentional about our time together. We won’t have the benefit of everyday in-person conversations to learn about our lives. We’ll have to check in frequently and plan our get-togethers. The logistics of our friendship will change, but my love for them will remain the same.
The only way to have a friend is to be a friend. – Ralph Waldo Emerson