Stewards of Our Neighbors and Neighborhood

I was talking to someone last week who is new to the area. She said she was wondering why it wasn’t sunny in Southern California. I explained that we were experiencing “May Gray”. Oh, she said, so next week it’ll be sunny? No, I said, then we’ll be in “June Gloom”! Such is the reality of coastal living. But, to quote Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners (for all you old-timers—me included) “How Sweet It is!”

We all know that summer doesn’t start officially for another few weeks, but with the kids getting out of school, it sure feels like it all the same.

Summer brings with it a sea of change in our neighborhoods. Suddenly, the streets are alive with joggers and baby strollers, the smells of backyard barbe¬cue, and the drone of lawn mowers.

As a Christian steward, have you given thought to your responsibility to your neighborhood? We take seriously the scriptural query, “Who is my neigh¬bor?” but do we ever ask, “But what of my neighborhood?” In our grandpar¬ents’ era, when many people lived in small towns and escaped the summer heat by sitting on porches in the muggy evenings, neighborliness came with the territory.

Everybody knew who was having a baby, which family was suffering through illness, who had just experienced a death or a wedding. Problems in the neighborhood were shared concerns. Today, in the era of two-parent wage-earners and automatic garage door openers, it’s easy to come home after a long day, hit a button and watch the neighborhood disappear as we enter the cocoon of our home.

June offers us the opportunity to change that. Do you have a “back fence neighbor”? Maybe now, when he’s out in the yard, is the time to get to know him better. Host a barbecue, or a neighborhood potluck. Invite someone over for an evening iced tea on the patio. If there’s a community picnic, be sure to go and introduce yourself around.

Invite your pastor over for burgers. Go for a long stroll in the early evening and look at your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Stop to visit with people working on their lawns or in their flower beds.

There’s a famous quote: “All politics is local.” Do you know who represents your neighborhood on the city council and on the school board? Are you ac¬quainted with your parish council members? The quote could very well have added that most religion is local as well, alive in our parish. The church, and the community, lives and breathes in the neighborhood. Is there a pressing lo¬cal issue, a speed bump needed or a stop sign missing? Is there a neighborhood clean-up day? Get involved. For the Christian steward, opening our eyes to the people next door or to the folks sitting next to us in the pew can be a great proj¬ect for a sunny summer.

I was meeting with a new parishioner recently and he was talking about neighborhoods not being friendly like “when we were kids”. I boasted that I live on a cul-de-sac and we have a very close-knit neighborhood. Later in the conversation he told me that St. Mary’s feels like a “cul-de-sac church”, friendly and welcoming. I hope you feel that way too.