Community: By Proximity
At the end of our street is a collection pond. It collects all the rain water run-off from the twisty mountain road above our house. So, for most of the year, it's a big hole in the ground perfect for little boys to run around in on elaborate adventures. But, in the winter, it can fill completely in minutes. Throughout the spring, there is a thin layer of muck in the pond -- a lovely breeding ground for frogs. For years, my kids liked to collect tadpoles from the pond and bring them home in any container they could convince me to give up. Nowadays, we drive past the pond without giving it a thought.
In spring, it grabs out attention once again. At some point, every spring, the tadpoles turn into four-legged fogs who realize they can escape the pond. Thousands of frogs hop out of the pond in every direction, seemingly overnight. These aren't big frogs. They are itty bitty frogs. And they go everywhere.
Driving home in spring is a bit like playing Frogger, only I'm the car zooming along the bottom of the screen, not the frog trying to dodge fast to stay alive. I literally see frogs in my headlights. Frogs hopping this way and that in front of my van. I try not to hit them, but I really have no control over the outcome.
We find them on the walls of our house. Inside the garage. Occasionally, one will get lucky and actually get INTO the house. Our dog runs around chasing it, not sure if it's a friend or foe. Pure chaos!
When the Spring Hop happens, it becomes a neighborhood bonding experience. We all are trying to dodge the frogs. We all are shutting our windows at night because the volume of croaking is above tolerable. We all are catching frogs in the house and releasing back to the wild. It's OUR pond. They are OUR frogs.
I thought about this while I was recovering from surgery because in a way that surprised me, my health crisis became a mini neighborhood bonding experience.
I had to walk. I didn't want to, but I had to. At first, my goal was to walk downstairs. Then the goal changed to walking out the front door. Then to the end of the drive way. Then to across the cul-de-sac, with Chris by side carrying a chair in case I had to stop in the middle. That seemed like a big accomplishment, so I pressed on. Try to get to the first house across the street. Then to the stand of birch trees. Then to the end of the last fence. Then to the mailboxes. Finally, to the end of the street. Some days, I couldn't go as far as I had the day before. Some days, I went farther than I thought I could. But, rain or shine, I got outside and walked.
Along the way, neighbors stopped what they were doing to watch me. Not to gawk, but to cheer me on. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you moving again," one neighbor said. Another just stood and smiled, like a golf clap of silent cheering. I wondered how they even knew I was recovering from trauma. The ambulance that came to get me from home came in the middle of the night, sirens off at our request so as to not frighten our children. I don't think anyone saw it. Did they? No, I think they talked. The old neighborhood grapevine. Which is funny because we aren't that kind of neighborhood. We aren't the kind of neighborhood that holds block parties or any other gatherings. I've lived in this house for 10 years and I don't know half of the neighbors on my street. The half I do know have lived here just as long as we have. We have history, sort of.
And that's what made me think of the frogs. We all dodge the frogs. It's OUR thing. Three times, a neighbor has died on our street. That brought us together a little bit. One neighbor had a colicky baby, twice. We brought them a meal. One neighbor bought a bigger boat. That got us out and talking. So, I guess it's not that strange that when my family had a crisis moment, it brought the neighbors together.
Some of our neighbors brought us meals. One neighbor moved furniture in our house while we were gone to make room for my parents. One neighbor came and left signs on doors with instructions for future guests bringing meals. They were the best ones for these jobs because of their physical proximity.
We think we choose our Communities. We choose our church, our friends, maybe our schools. We even choose our house, our neighbors. But do we really? If God is sovereign, then everything He does is for our good and His glory. That would include which house he permits us to buy. For us, this house ended up being the only option we had when we bought it. Hmm.... coincidence? There are no coincidences.
My neighbors are my community by God's design. I'll admit, I don't always have that viewpoint about my neighbors. My recovery walks changed that. I saw my neighbors as community members. My people. I wondered, "What season are they in?" "How can I help them?" It made me more aware of the people behind the front doors. I'm grateful for that.