Our lives looked quite different just two years ago. Living in a residential neighborhood, we resided in a brick rancher home from the 1970s on a small corner lot, with houses on all four sides. We had such a vast array of neighbors— the elderly gentlemen that drove a classic car and mowed his perfectly manicured lawn in his khaki pants, a lady who raised rather noisy chickens in a tiny backyard, a family with many dogs that made dragging pizza boxes in to our yard a sport, and a little boy who was convinced he was Tony Stark from Iron Man. Needless to say, even checking the mail was an event.
Once we moved to a farm a few years later, our living situation was vastly different. No longer were there sounds of a beater truck revving its engine at 5:00 a.m., people knocking on our door for flour, or stray dogs terrorizing my children. Instead, it was land for miles, mountains as far as the eye could see, and most importantly, silence. As we settled in to our new lifestyle, living on the dead end of a very narrow country road, having neighbors seemed to be a thing of the past.
Until the snow came. As many times as I laughed when patrons would rush to the store at the first snowflake for their “milk, bread, and eggs,” living in the boonies with shoddy internet access, dangerous roads, little chance of help if a need did arise puts a huge change in perspective. After we had been snowed in for almost ten days (and I was on the brink of losing my sanity) we finally made it safely to church one Sunday morning. On the way home, we came upon an elderly lady whose van had slid off her steep and rather slick driveway and was resting in the middle of the road. Determined to handle this situation on her own, we watched as her tires spun recklessly in the ice packed, unsalted road.
I immediately recognized her van, as she and I were some of the only people who lived on our street without a four-wheel drive vehicle. When we met each other on the road, with woods on either side and no guardrail, she would blaze by me, fast as lightning in that white minivan, leaving me holding my breath and clutching the steering wheel with white knuckles. This woman was fearless.
But that day she was scared and welcomed the assistance. My husband left our vehicle and jogged briskly home to get his truck and a chain to pull her van back to the top of the hill. Meanwhile, another neighbor on his way home saw the situation and jumped out to lend a hand. Between the three of them, they had the van out in no time, and the woman insisted on paying them for their so-called troubles. Baffled, my husband refused, saying, “What are neighbors for?” A few hours later, he took a man who walked to our home in the snow for help to the Greyhound station. We have lived here for almost two years. And we met half of our street in two days.
So, what are neighbors for? Neighbors are for asking questions about raising chickens from the lady next door. You are moving to a farm and need to know what to expect. Neighbors are for cleaning up your yard again and again, and realizing that we all have trash in our lives that needs forgiveness. Neighbors are for sipping juice boxes with Iron Man, and checking on his kittens under the porch. And neighbors are for visiting that elderly gentleman on his birthday each year, presenting him with a fresh jar of canned pickles, even though you no longer live across the street.
As eclectic as they may seem, you and your neighbors all have one thing in common—your street address. You were brought to community for a purpose. So whether you have a cul-de-sac full of kids on bikes or just a lonely lady in a white minivan, neighbors are there for the times you get stuck in a rut and just need someone to guide you home.