We moved into the new house. A simple 2 story home, with a basement. As the movers came and went, as boxes were unpacked and broken down, as furniture moves from one side to the other and back again looking for its place in the humble space, my daughter says..."none of the neighbors have stopped by to say hello." I make the excuse that people often want to let the family move in and get settled before introducing themselves, but was I right?
In our last two houses our neighbors knew us and we knew them, simply because they were nosey and we were friendly (or visa versa). We always sat on the porch steps and watched as the movers would unpack. We would wave or smile to let the new owners know we weren't serial killers or one of those "weird homeschool families" whose kids would always be around doing weird things in their pajamas. We sat on the porch because we had a front porch to sit on. We don't at this house. And neither do our neighbors. It was as if the street was designed to keep people away.
True, we were not the neighborhood Welcome Wagon. We never brought cookies or fruit baskets. But we did bring warm greetings and always extended the hand of friendship, even if it were in the form of a wave. At times we must have been seen as aliens who had just landed on Earth saying, "We come in peace."
Yet isn't that what life is really about? Greeting one another in peace!
But so far (three days into it) we have barely received a nod from the postal carrier who walks pass the house sizing us up as my 7 year old screams out, "Hey mailman! Got any mail for me?" I wonder if we are too loud for their quiet community. I wonder if they know we are the new minister family and they are trying to avoid us least be invited to their sacrifice their private prayers over Sunday football for hymn singing and guilt. Perhaps they think we are in witness relocation. Whatever it is, they avoid eye contact or smiles.
I understand letting a stranger into your home is difficult, but welcoming someone (especially someone who has never driven in snow and therefore possesses the power to smash his car into yours) should be our priority. When we feel welcomed, we allow ourselves to be open to be received. When humans close their arms, they close their hearts. And closed hearts lead to closed hands. Closed hands eventually crunch up into clinched fists. I cannot recall a time in my life where a clinched fist has been used to forge a friendship. Can you?
God has opened his gracious arms for all who seek shelter from the daily storms of life. Sometimes those arms are ours. Sometimes they are someone else's. To come in peace is to come to the stranger with an open hand and open arms. They only time we should approach a stranger with a clenched fist is when we use it to knock on one's door to say, "Welcome."
Today I become the stranger in a new town. I do not know what to expect. And wonder how I will be seen by others. How will this town embrace my family? What will they think when they see our out of state license plates? Who,will reach out and who will judge us secretly from within? What will it be like to welcome strangers into our home?
As the leaves are beginning to change, I can only hope and pray this change in our lives will weather it out. There are new faces and new names to learn. New stories to hear and old ones to tell. This life is full of gold (like the leaves on the trees) if you know where to look. What will I find by looking in the eyes that are looking at me?
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one ..."