Neighboring is not a new concept. Some might call this hospitality, friendliness or welcoming. The word neighbor is a noun. Neighboring might be commonly used as a descriptive word or adjective. Today, I would like to propose that this word be established as a verb, an action word which operates as a transitive verb. If you are neighboring regularly, maybe you can grab a new idea here. If you have not found the great joy that comes from neighboring everyday, consider this an invitation to start neighboring today. This call to action is really needed today in ways we have never needed it before.
Do you want to be invited?
Does God call you and me to be those who invite?
What would it look like if we lived more in community by neighboring?
Why should you neighbor? Your motivation for neighboring might be just to live a happier, more purposeful life. Your motivation might be to act on the compassion toward others. Your motivation might be in response to the Bible’s numerous mentions of welcoming. Consider 1 Peter 4:9 that reminds that we are to show hospitality with out grumbling. Then in Titus 1:8 we are invited to be “…hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Mark 9:41 suggests that giving a cup of water out of kindness because I am a Christ follower is a sure guarantee to pleasing God or gaining a reward.
Loneliness by many statistics has been growing to be one of the most life threatening, if not the most life threatening situations today. Read on this topic in my recent blog or podcast “I See You: The Epidemic of Loneliness.”
The last two years has deepened this epidemic.
Statistics taken from 2022 CDC statistics state:
- In 2022, 45,979 died by suicide in the United States. That is 1 every 11 minutes.
- The suicide rate among males in 2020 was 4 times higher than the rate among females.
- Wounded people with childhood abuse, veterans, tribal populations along with those who experience violence, bullying, mental health, substance abuse and financial problems are just some of those most at risk.
- Men aged 75 and older have the highest rate (40.5 per 100,000) compared to other age groups.
- However, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people, accounting for 6,643 deaths. For youth ages 10-14, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
One of the most impactful statistics that I read came from Scientific American July 27, 2020
61% of Americans feel lonely regularly.
Alarmingly, self reported loneliness is highest among young adults. Equally alarming is that loneliness literally shrinks the size of our brains.
So, what should we do about this epidemic of loneliness? Does recognizing loneliness involve neighboring?
Open your eyes. Look for people who are sad, alone or struggling.
Who are the lonely people? A few indicators are:
- Broken relationship
- Native Americans
- Teenagers – especially girls
- Widows – especially men
- Single moms, all single parents
- Adults with disabilities
- Transition to a new school or job
- Moving to a new city or home
- Death of someone close
- Isolated (If you think of someone and you have not seen them for a long time, you might want to check on them with a call, lunch or a visit.)
How can you and I promote connectedness or neighboring?
How can you and I act as gatekeepers against loneliness, despair and suicide?
How can you and I do daily neighboring?
Ideas for Neighboring:
- Listen – Just quietly listen to others. Resist the urge to share that is natural to all of us. Don’t respond to every comment with something relative to you. Prioritize the idea of “I see you. I hear you. I feel you.” If you need to practice being a better conversationist, listen to this our podcast on conversation.
- See. See people. See needs. See opportunities. Think of all the places you go every week. Who do you see regularly? This is really an exercise in thinking about others instead of yourself. What has someone shared? Follow up on that conversation to demonstrate that you listened to what they shared. This really is a practice of selflessness. Look for people in the risk categories above. When you enter a room, when you go to work or church, look around and see people. Don’t do what is natural and think about what people are seeing when they see you. Give instead of take.
- Invite. Ask people to coffee, lunch, to your home, to the park, to an event, to church, to join you and your friends, to a Bible study, to take a walk, to share and to engage in a variety of ways. Lately, I have been busy inviting people to come into my home and just sit and visit. It is not about seeing our home or having a fancy meal. It is not about being impressed with me or my home. It is about inviting and welcoming. My husband, Tim, had a sign when we got married that read, “If you are coming to see the house, call ahead. If you are coming to see us, come on.” I always loved that.
- Smile. Do it more than you are doing now. I tell myself this. Think of neighboring as one of the secret to joy. Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling. Smiling is contagious.
- Invest. Live intentionally. Act on the needs you see. Encourage others to join you as you are neighboring. Start a trend. Be different. Think of others more than yourself. Reject selfish living. Find the joy in life by embracing neighboring.
Maybe you have been reading this blog and thinking how you would love for someone to be neighboring to you. That may be the most common response most of us have. It is human nature to want to be invited. Like the question posed at the beginning, “What would it look like to live more in community?” The answer to this question is to take action even if you wish others would ask you, it is key that you start listening, seeing, inviting, smiling and investing. If you are a Christ-follower this is the key to daily living that will bring you immense joy and open doors of conversation about the kingdom.
Neighboring really is not simple, but it is easy. It is an intentional mindset of togetherness, of congeniality, of amicability, of peacefulness and just warmth. It is meeting the eye of someone and smiling warmly to show that that person is being seen and accepted. It is waving to a driver that passes you directly in your neighborhood or a road you have never been on before. Maybe it is like the woman in the picture at the top of this blog who is bringing a gift of a hot drink to share. It is asking a friend to come over and sit on the couch and just talk. It is inviting someone new to sit with you or with your group. It is really touching others physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is the ultimate living like our Father God. It is being the hands and feet of Christ. It is the everyday embracing of intentional living. Embrace neighboring to live your very best life everyday.
Join me for a conversation about neighboring with Tim @ Embrace Your Everyday podcast.
More on relationships in these blogs: