I Am Surrounded by Neighbors, and I Am Grateful

neighborsI’m sitting here in my office on a Friday morning, trying to make myself work. It’s 7am and the neighborhood is waking up. My kids are home asleep – no school today for them. But here in the neighborhood kids are already on the move. I’ve seen a couple of young hispanic men from the youth group already, walking to a friend’s house to catch a ride, or crossing the street to watch the neighbor’s kids until it’s time for them to go to school. A homeless man who often spends Sunday morning with our congregation is walking past the church on the sidewalk. He’s probably headed down to the Quick Trip to grab some coffee. He looks cold.

I sip my coffee and wish I was eating a donut or something. It’s Friday during Lent and I’m fasting. I know that I’m not alone, though. Church members all over town are waking & wishing for their usual breakfast, just living with the craving to see what it might teach us. I’ve already received one cheeky fasting-related text from a church member this morning. It read simply: fasting is dumb. At this precise moment I couldn’t agree more.

I walk outside and see the cops sitting in their car in the parking lot. I’m not sure why, but they often hang out there surfing the internet in their cars. I wave to him and unlock the door for Jesse, a homeless man who was just released from prison. He’s coming by later on to meet Bart, a man from our church who is going to help him with some paperwork. Jesse was born in the 1950’s in rural Kentucky in his family’s hearth room with only a midwife present. He’s never had a birth certificate. We’ve got to find a way to get a him one or Kansas won’t issue him an ID card.

I sip my coffee and watch traffic pick up in front of the church. A car from down the block starts up in a driveway, a puff of white smoke shooting from the tailpipe. This guy’s muffler is clearly not entact. Quite a massive sound for such a small car as he makes a left turn right in front of my window and heads off to work. If I’m sitting here at 4:30 when he heads home, I’ll hear him coming from a full block away.

I breathe deeply and the Jesus Prayer emerges from somewhere deep inside me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The words link up with my breathing and I sit here, listening to the hum of my space heater and feeling content. I’m ashamed to say it’s a bit of a foreign feeling for me. I stop praying to wonder why. Why am I content? And then it hits me.

I am surrounded by neighbors and I am grateful.

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  • scott stone

    I saw a comedian that had a bit on the difference between our lives today compared with, say the 50’s, 60’s, and even the 70’s when someone would knock on your door. It used to be that we’d welcome a visitor and now we hide and hope no one knows we are home.
    My wife and I moved to Miami Beach a few years ago. Not the SoBe that you see on the television. We are west of the beach a few blocks in the residential areas. Old 1930’s buildings piled on top of each other. I’d say the average apartment is around 700 sq ft. We moved here because we got sick of the burbs and the distance it was creating from others. Here, our neighbors are all around us. We can walk everywhere with constant opportunities to meet and engage others. There’s something wonderful about living in an urban environment with a high population density.

    • Tim_Suttle

      Yeah, I would love to have a clip of that bit. Do you remember who it was?

      I didn’t know you guys moved! I’m sure you’ve already found a church, but if not you should check out Rhythm Church. They are good folks!

      • scott stone

        Thanks for the info. I’ll check out Rhythm. Been a bit lazy looking for a church because Miami Beach Community Church is 100 yards from us. Expediency has crept in a bit.
        Splitting our time between South Beach and Green Bay until we head to Central America. Hope all is well. I’ll see if I can dig up the comedian who did that bit.
        Sorry for being a solicitor but if you don’t mind check out a post I did on a recent experience in Cuba. If you do, you can comment after it.
        http://skippingstonetravels.com/fabrica-de-arte-cubano/

      • scott stone
  • George Waite

    There is no god.