Tag Archive | neighbors



There is a kind of simplicity that is undesirable:
It’s the simple minded demand that all situations, no matter how complex they ar, be addressed with simple explanations and solutions.  “Don’t bother me with the facts,” such a person says.  “I don’t care about the details; they only confuse me.”  The lack of insight and engagement is both mind boggling and burdensome.

Soundbites and the opinions of talk show hosts will suffice for these shallow, unwise ones.  To think for themselves would probably give them a headache!

Then there is a simplicity that is beautiful and noble.
It is often quiet and unassuming; bathed in thought and prayer.
People who practice this lack of complication enjoy the good things of life; yet they are not in pursuit of prestige or extravagance.  A beautiful sunset delights them.  Time spent with family and friends is priceless.
One hallmark of such individuals is astuteness.  These ones think with both sides of their brains.  They question, explore and research; never settling for the status quo.  If you were to visit their homes, you would find shelves full of books, art and music in every room, along with creative endeavors.  They might not have the most uncluttered place you’ve ever seen.  That’s because they are busy with thought, creation and relationships.
Another quality is the very high amount of respect and honor these people have for the world:  Their fellow humans, animals, the environment, principles such as decency and generosity.
This simplicity is a paradox, filled with all shades of reality and nuance.
To know people who live this life is to be inspired and encouraged.
How very different these two kinds of simplicity are!  One word; opposite meanings.
That really describes our world, doesn’t it?  The Earth and her inhabitants are concentric systems, interwoven into complex patterns and relationships; yet there is a simple matter of watching, listening, tasting, feeling, smelling, enjoying and caring for all that is around us.

May you discover and appreciate the lovely, noble sort of simplicity that revives and nurtures you.



When I was growing up, we had a neighbor, known to us children as, “Uncle Fred.”  He wasn’t related in the usual ways – marriage or biology; however, he was truly our “uncle” relationally.

It was a given that Uncle Fred would spend holidays with us; he never had to wonder about that.  One of us simply went over to his house to confirm the time of his arrival.

Once we were old enough, each of us would get him a Christmas present.  When he came for dinner that day, he would sit to open them:  He carefully took off the ribbons, picked the tape until it let go, folded the paper, read the card…and at last, got to the gift.  I don’t know that I have ever met anyone who savored these moments quite like he did.

He brought presents, too:  A dozen eggs his chickens had laid or something he had grown in his garden.  Once in a while he would surprise one of us with a treasured item, such as a basket or some lovely ornament that had been his for many years.

I think Uncle Fred was at least as much of a blessing to us as we were to him.  That is how neighbors and extended family ought to be.

Is there someone you would like to adopt into your family this year?  Everybody needs an Uncle Fred.


Years ago, when I was taking a course in spiritual growth and development, we learned about a practice called “Focused caring.”  It works like this:
What major issue(s) really tug at your heart?  Is it world hunger?  The environment?  Workers’ rights?  The list is long.

Once you have identified the concern that will get your attention, find one tangible thing you can do to express it.
For example, if your heart goes out to single mothers who are trying to raise their children, while working and doing everything else, you might donate snacks to your local after school program or volunteer two hours per week to help supervise.

Perhaps it’s women who are homeless or getting out of abusive relationships.  Women’s shelters will be more than happy to receive donations from you.  To make it a bit more personal, go shopping for the shelter, instead of simply writing a check.

I think the importance of focused caring has increased exponentially.  There are many needs and they are great.  Moreover, we are much more inclined to feel overwhelmed and powerless because tragic, difficult circumstances around the world are thrust into our faces every day.  Having one or two things we can do will empower us.

There is one huge benefit of choosing a simple thing to do:  If everyone did this, there would be major results!  Imagine, for example, if one person in each neighborhood in America made it a point to say, “hello” to someone he or she sees each morning.  Before long, the one who has been greeted would be more confident and willing to talk to another.  The problem of isolation would be significantly impacted.


If each person in America recycled one bottle that he or she would have thrown away, how much would not end up in a landfill?

If 50% of the people in a town saved pennies to help buy groceries for ones who can’t afford them, how many vulnerable, possibly isolated seniors, children and adults in dire need would have enough to eat?

There is another incredibly positive effect of focused caring.  It is the peace in the soul of the one who is doing it.  When we help others, we are much healthier, body, mind, emotions and spirit.  There are innumerable studies that have found that people who volunteer and share live longer with fewer and less severe illnesses.

What need or issue has your attention?  Decide on one simple thing you can do; start today.

Next, watch for changes as more people join and we improve our nation, one good deed at a time.


My neighborhood is an exceptional place.  IT is in the midst of transformation from the usual sort of private, non-communicative collection of households to a street full of friends.
We have had a couple of gatherings so far.  One was a tea for the women; the other was a potluck for everyone.  Our next get-together is a snacks and cider party in October.


It’s more than parties:  We are sharing our stories, helping each other, telling about our distress and joys.  We call one another to check in; we  make sure our more vulnerable neighbors are cared for.


This is a work in process.  At first, there were only a couple of us who did more than say a polite, “hello.”; now, most of the households on both sides of the street in a two-block area really communicate.

Neighborhoods in America used to be this way.  People knew each other.  They were fully engaged to the point of being friends and family; there was a sense of security; people did not have to hide their needs or go through hard times alone.  We lost most of this vital kind of relationship in the Great Depression and the mobilization that happened after World War II.  As families moved away from communities where they were known to cities, looking for work, they found themselves in neighborhoods where no one knew anybody.  Fear, shame, privacy and isolation took over.

We need these close knit communities back:  As we reach out and come together, we grow stronger.  A vast number of problems and challenges will at least be diminished, if not completely eliminated.  It is amazing how much trouble falls away when there are people to come alongside each other!

I personally believe that building neighborhoods is the most effective thing we can do to strengthen our nation.  For one thing, it is within our ability.  So often it seems that we hear news on the bigger scale that angers, frustrates, distresses or frightens us, and we don’t seem to be able to do much.  We can, however, learn a neighbor’s name, start to greet those who live next door or across the street.  We can do business with the little store on the corner and the mom and pop restaurant in the next block.  Relationships are much stronger and more powerful than just about any legislation I can think of.

This is a call to all neighbors:  What is your neighborhood like?  Do you know people’s names?  In which ways would you like to see the good things in your community grow?