Try this: put your trash bins out on the wrong day, and see how many of your neighbors follow suit. You will be amazed. People are looking for leadership and direction all the time, and they don’t even have to know you well (or at all) to try what you are doing. The simple presence of your bins out on the curb suggests that, perhaps tomorrow is trash day after all. Rather than trusting their own experience, or the neighborhood newsletter, many will simply put theirs out just in case. They will believe that perhaps your way is better; perhaps you know something they don’t.
Well. That’s an amazing power that you have right there. What else might you “just try,” to see if your neighbors will do it too? I’ve seen the same effect with Christmas decorations, or, more recently, the Halloween variety. One house goes all festive, and the one next door needs to match, or go one better. This is where trends emerge. At least, in neighborhoods with a gracious HOA. Landscaping. Yard sales. Political signs. (although, these days, putting a political sign in your yard is just marking yourself as a paintball target). The selling of girl scout cookies or boy scout popcorn. All these things demand a response from the neighbors, maybe even a sense of competition. The pattern’s begun. And all you did was forget what day the trash comes.Can these patterns of call and response build community? A modern-day, real-life litany of connectedness? I think so. But you can make your neighbor put out their trash early without even knowing them. What sorts of change might you effect in your midst if people really know you? If people feel connected with you from a shared experience, a recent conversation, or a common interest they know you share? What if they look to you for wisdom, not just because you are there, but because you’ve got something they are looking for?
Your neighbors are seeking. They are looking for leadership, wisdom, relationship, something holy that they forgot to ask for. If you are a person of faith, then you have the power to answer the seeking soul next door. If you have made yourself a living light, opened your door, and welcomed the stranger, the next question for you might not be “now, when is trash day again?” It might just be, “what do you believe, and whom do you follow, that makes you seem so peaceful, joyful, and loving?” And you can answer, “I’ve got good news for you. And, Wednesday.”