Neighborly intent

My wife was expecting a package from her sister a couple of weeks ago. When it didn’t come and didn’t come — even though UPS claimed it had been delivered — we learned that her sister had the wrong house number for us in her address book.

The package, thus, had been delivered to our neighbors. They had kept it, unopened, not knowing who it was actually intended for. When I knocked on their door after my wife figured out what happened to the box, they were expecting me.

I’ve written before about wanting to know my neighbors, to live incarnationally where I’m planted. I know some of them. I know Joe, Caleb and Jay (who happens to pastor my church). Kevin used to live across the street but is renting his house now, and the house across from his is also a rental. A Salvadorian family lives in the house that our box was delivered to. I’ve had one short conversation with the brother of the owner, who seems to be much more fluent in English than the owner herself.

She didn’t know enough to realize that the name on the package lived right next door.

I’ve had intentions every year of taking Christmas cookies or May Day baskets to my neighbors, but for one reason or another it never gets done. For the last two years I’ve hoped to have a summer grill-fest for the neighborhood. I’ve mentioned it to Jay and Caleb for the past two years, and they’ve been game but it’s never come together. We even have a new neighbor that Jay’s befriended with an incredible patio and one of these uber-ultra-mega stainless steel grill setups (that house has been undergoing a two year long renovation).

I don’t necessarily expect to be friends with all of my neighbors. Joe and I actually worked together remodeling houses before my wife and I moved into our bungalow. I’ve tried to keep the relationship up, but we just don’t have much in common at all. We still wave at each other as we leave for work or come home for lunch; we still chat over the fence a few times a year. Caleb actually knows my wife from college, but we’ve never had he and his wife over for dinner.

In this age of the automobile, Americans seem to pick their friends solely based on mutual interests. I can understand the desire for this as much as anyone. I’ve gone years without someone I could really talk to about the things I’m passionate about, and it’s not very fun. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to those kinds of relationships just because we can, thanks to cars and the internet.

I’m feeling a bit hypocritical for having written here in the past about proactive neighborliness when I haven’t followed up my intent with action. There might be some legitimate reasons — five of the nearest houses have seen new occupants in the last two years, for instance — but they don’t quell my desire to see communities act more like communities on a geographic level.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to Neighborly intent

  1. Tim J. says:

    This so parallels my feelings about our neighborhood.

    I really want to take some steps to make those first connections, but somehow, it very seldom happens.

    We had an elderly neighbor in a town where we once lived who never interacted with us at all until we had a party and one of our gusts parked a few feet too close to her drive. She left a really crabby note on their car, and later on our door.

    It seemed like she was just looking for some reason to complain.

    We got proactive and, since it was close to the holidays, went one morning and left a jar of homemade cookies on her doorstep with a simple note wishing her a Merry Christmas.

    After that she was SO nice. She came over to say “thank you” and had some coffee, and left us with some goodies.

    I think she was pretty much alone and becoming bitter, possibly a little frightened (in that neighborhood) and was really just waiting for someone to give her a chance to be nice. barring that, she opted for the default crabby mode.

  2. balm says:

    well i am on the same page. i don’t know enough of my neighbors names or what they do, or really who they are. i do know a few neighbors. they are the ones i have things in common with for the most part. i know r, s & k because we actually do get together for balm events and other items as well as our kids like to hang out as well. i know e and c because e and i fish and eventually i would like to hunt with him. i know j from a previous job, but not his wife very well. anyway… i understand what you are saying. i will throw on a p.s. on this. i think i have a new venue for the white show. i dont have dates, in fact i need to send the proposal tomorrow, but they are interested. it would be here in lawrence, so i dont know if that interests you or not. let me know, and i can keep you updated. i still have all of the paperwork etc that you sent. balm dot – oh balm is a non profit entity now. 🙂

  3. DO we perchance live parallel lives? In parallel bungalows? In parallel neighborhoods with Salvadorian neighbors?

    I will say that I am lucky to have made a friend on our street. I have a co-worker who lives down the road, but we never see him. We have friendly neighbors and cranky ones. We’ve had bbqs and we keep to ourselves.

    I actually have a hard time making friends. I make aquaintences easily, but trying to find a crunchy Christian artist-friend is derned near impossible. (I actually have two, but they are from college and far away.)

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