“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” - 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (NIV)
You have a close friend who rejoices when great things happen and who shows compassion in times of trouble. That’s why you call her a friend!
I love my friend. She shares honestly, not as if she knows all of the answers. She is genuine—real. She does not deceive me; it’s not in her character. It’s easy to call her friend. Our values are similar. We connect easily, even when we haven’t seen each other in awhile. We share true stories.
Friends comes along and share life with you. With a good friend, the journey—both good and long—is time-tested. You understand one another.There is a sense of belonging as your friendship grows.
You might call your neighbor a friend, or you may want to know your neighbor as your friend. But how do you open the door to her? How do you share your stories and hear hers, too?
You may have seen on social media how a neighbor’s garage door opener was opening her next-door neighbor’s garage. At first she didn’t notice, but after she did, it embarrassed her. I don’t think that’s the way I want to get to know my neighbor, but it certainly created a conversation starter!
You may prefer a better option to starting your conversation. If you are at a loss for words, consider one of these questions:
- What has been your favorite place to live?
- How’s your work going?
- What do you like to have for supper?
Knowing your neighbor’s story is important, but it’s a two-way street. If you really want to know your neighbor, you’ll have to open up and share your story as well.
This week in the online course Leadership Theory, Dr. Noel Forlini Burt challenges leaders to lead from places that hurt. She explains that it is in these places where leaders find their people or their tribe. She tells how the sharing of stories allows leaders to find that they are “connected with a bond” to the community where they belong.
Why not begin sharing with your neighbors in the real community where you live?
Certainly you won’t begin a conversation by blurting out how you’ve been hurt, but it’s important that you eventually share authentically on deeper levels. Being the real you wherever you are opens you up to deeper conversations as the relationship develops naturally.
Sharing your stories and learning the stories of others promote a sense that you belong in a community.
Consider these three ways to open some doors in your neighborhood.
1. Open a door by navigating the small talk to find the things that matter to both of you.
Getting to know someone casually can be done by anyone, but delving deeper will take being intentional as you get to know your neighbors. As you connect, find ways to initiate that below the surface talk.
Consider the following:
Do you have a story to share about how you failed at something and then found hope on the other side of the disappointment? What disappointments has your neighbor faced?
Do you have a fear that keeps you awake at night? How can you share it as a part of your story? Do you know a problem your neighbor is facing right now?
2. Open a door by noticing what excites your neighbor and what passions you share.
There’s a light that seems to shine in someone’s face when they start sharing about the things they love. I see it often in conversations about children and grandchildren.
Complete this sentence about your neighbor and answer the questions about yourself.
My neighbor, ______________, seems to be passionate about ______________.
How do I connect with that passion? Have I shared my passion with my neighbor?
3. Open a door by nurturing the relationship.
My friend does a better job than I do in staying connected on a weekly basis. That may not be possible where you live, but in some seasons it’s easier to do than in others.
It may seem a coincidence that God has placed you in the community where you live. Yet if you believe that God has put you there for a purpose, you’ll respond differently. As you live authentically in your neighborhood, you’ll find that you belong to the people there in a deeper sense.
Let’s do this together. In order to facilitate some conversation, determine to do one of the two options below. Use this time to show compassion or to talk about some of the concerns of your neighborhood.
1. Have a coffee break with your neighbor.
2. Take a standing break with your neighbor.
Be intentional about your next opportunity to connect with your neighbor, and follow up regularly.
In times of need, it’s good to have neighbors who love one another. They forgive you when your car meets the edge of their driveway. They know you and they love you. They have your back and you have theirs. You want to be there in their time of need, and they’ll be there for yours as well.
As 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 indicates, God comforts us and we are then able to also comfort those who share in similar troubles. Think of this mutually. You will both comfort and be comforted by a community where you really belong.
Take the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge. Stretch yourself a little each week and open some doors in your neighborhood.
—Claudia Johnson directs Christian Women’s Leadership Center and served as a missionary with the International Mission Board for 28 years. She’s taking the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge.