Since living in a pandemic that has suddenly limited indoor socializing, I have been particularly thankful for the neighbourhood friendships we’ve created. In March and April, when we were all isolating, we actually got to know our neighbours far better. Since everyone was home and working on their yards, and our kids were always outside playing together on the street, we spent hours chatting with our neighbours while physical distancing.
Our neighbours across the street were building a front-yard fence for their dog, and our very friendly and chatty kids watched the whole project unfold, asking question upon question along the way. The couple was incredibly kind and welcoming to the kids, and a very special friendship between us evolved.
Our kids started to affectionately call it The John Show, and we joked about the various seasons: “John builds a fence,” “John changes his tires,” “John fixes a wheelbarrow.” We soon discovered that John is also a very good skateboarder and, when our town’s skatepark re-opened, he showed us his tricks. My kids’ favourite season quickly became “John can skate!” These neighbours have become like family to us; we’ve even exchanged keys to our houses!
We love building community in this organic, natural way. Sometimes care groups and curated support feels unnatural, but when we grow together in community, and are drawn together out of a mutual desire to connect, it just feels right. We love that we know the people on our street and can really trust them, and feel accepted and cared for also.
My parents recently moved from the home I grew up in, and their neighbours threw a wonderful farewell block party for them in their cul-de-sac. They were showered with gifts and cards of appreciation. My parents really cared about their neighbours and had built meaningful relationships with them, old and young; their presence was well felt in the neighbourhood. One neighbour, a 12-year-old girl, went door-to-door on the street to have all the neighbours sign a huge card for them, which was quickly filled with warm wishes and appreciation. The impact they had on their street, and the trust and safety that was created in their community because of their presence, is invaluable.
I once wrote about living a front-yard life and the beautiful community that we can create when we are vulnerable and open with others instead of hiding in our backyards, literally and figuratively. We continue to live that kind of life, and it seems that it has encouraged others on our street to do so also. One recent morning, when I was at baseball with my kids, my husband was working and dropped in at home to grab something he forgot. When he arrived, our neighbour from down the street was sitting in one of our front-yard chairs while his toddler searched for snails in our front garden. His kids often make their way to our yard, knowing there are kids to play with and hockey sticks to share. They had a good laugh that morning, but we sure felt thankful knowing that our neighbours feel this comfortable with us. Living a front-yard life may just mean that others live in your front yard, too!
In this strange season of keeping more distance from many of our loved ones, it’s also so important that we connect with those who live right around us. With fewer social interactions this year, I love that much of my close community is the neighbours I see daily.
Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.