Updated: Jun 5
Emily Neal, OneWay's Advancement Director, shares what happened when she stepped out of her comfort zone to put love in action
A few weeks ago, our family noticed some activity in the house across the street that had been sitting empty with a "For Sale" sign in the yard the last few months.
Once the moving truck had come and gone, I felt compelled to find a way to reach out to our new neighbors. But what exactly are the social norms of making new friends during a global pandemic?
I stalled and argued with my own insecurity, convincing myself it was probably a dumb idea to cross the street and introduce myself. Knocking on a stranger's door is awkward enough. “I can't bake someone cookies or offer a handshake with the threat of spreading a deadly virus,” I told myself.
But as part of my job at OneWay, I get the chance to listen to Michael Thompson's "Brand New Day" podcast before we release it to the public. This week’s episode was one that hit me on a personal level. In the episode, "Love in Action," Michael stressed the importance of not just talking about love, but putting it into action.
I was not only convicted, but encouraged by the five practical tips he gave at the end of the episode to love your neighbors. After months of social distancing, it was time to dust off my relational skills and call my inner extrovert into action.
I picked up an extra dozen donuts from the local donut shop that weekend. My husband and I hesitantly rang the doorbell on a Saturday morning and then waited several minutes before someone answered. The dad answered the doors in his PJ pants, and we chatted awkwardly before heading back across the street.
The next evening, I was heading out with my family for a walk when I heard someone calling my name. The family across the street came rushing over with a small potted rose bush in hand. Now, they were extending their hands back across the street to thank us.
For the next few hours, our family and theirs stood on the sidewalk getting to know each other. We talked about faith and our life journeys. We realized that not only were both of our families Christians, but we also shared some mutual friends.
“Other people have waved or stopped to say, “Hello,’ “ our new neighbor said. “But what you did truly made us feel welcome.”
All of this was happening on a Sunday evening when violent protests were taking place on the streets of Chicago over the death of George Floyd and his treatment by police. I didn't consider the color of my neighbor's skin when I decided to take them donuts. But it felt especially profound on that particular day that a white family and a black family could connect around donuts, a rose bush and enough bravery on both sides to walk across the street and turn love into action.
If you haven't listened to this week's podcast, make sure you don't miss it! Michael gives five practical tips to love your neighbor. I want to encourage you to do at least one of these this week:
1. Remember dates This could include not only birthdays and anniversaries, but important “memory dates,” like the death of a loved one.
2. Give Make an extra batch of cookies or stop by to sing Christmas carols in December.
3. Pray for people Pray quietly for your neighbors when you walk past their homes, thinking about the unique story of each resident.
4. Teach Share with your neighbors encouraging resources that you have found, like movies or books.
5. Share Share the story of your life and your faith journey. Learn their story, too. Out of a genuine friendship, dialogue can take place. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15