So, here’s the thing, or maybe a whole lot of things… you know how in the Bible it says to love thy neighbor? Yeah, it actually says to love thy neighbor as thyself. Welp, I love myself a whole lot. I probably have Pinterest boards in my soul about how much self-love I have. And, I don’t mean to brag, but they’ve probably been re-pinned, and shared. A lot.
I get the whole love thy neighbor thing. In theory.
I live in the Perry District, a cornucopia of wonderful people. Rich, poor, middle class, self-employed, unemployed, and deployed, all within walking distance. We have a Buddhist temple, a safe haven for LGBTQ youth, a weekly farmer’s market, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Non-Denominational churches, and even a church of missionaries TO the United States FROM the Philippines. If that’s not telling, I don’t know what is.
But, still. Perry. It’s where Atheists, Agnostics, and Christians all walk the same cracked sidewalks, drink the same delicious coffee at The Shop, and avoid the same over-sharers at the Thursday Market. I love it.
I did not, however, realize how much I love it, until recently.
Now, we have had this house for over 9 years. I have seen a lot of people come and go. The well-meaning, and kind, Scott, with his harsh and unfriendly, pharmacist fiancée. The amazing gospel singer, who told it how it is (seriously, one of my favorites). The drug dealers that required multiple calls to the police because of butcher knives in the front yard, but still said hello and wished us a Happy Easter. The family where the kids wore clothes two sizes too small, ate every bite offered to them, and still had hearts of gold. The single mom who brought home a different guy almost every weekend for sleepovers, for two years, but never looked happy. And let’s not forget, the woman in her fifties who threw all-weekend keggers, but never forgot to invite us. Beer is good for breast-feeding, she said, repeatedly. She even named her cat after our daughter, and came over to tell us so. Many, many, times.
When she left, a very nice man who had PTSD, from fighting for our country, moved in with his son. They were amazing. Like, the kind of people you bake for, just because. But eventually, he moved after buying a house with his fiancée, who I am not kidding you, is a sweeter soul than I will ever be. And a classical musician, who put up with my family playing our piano much, much poorer, than she could have.
There are new families, just finding their way. And older families, where just the parents are left at home, who are sifting through their new reality of empty nests, and empty arms; together, but still alone.
There is joy, and acceptance, and nods between neighbors.
We sit on the front porch, and say good morning and good evening to passerby. Friends walk or ride their bikes over to my house for tea, and leagues of deep conversation.
This place, this rickety wooden porch, has become my adult diary. It has born witness to thousands of conversations. It has heard the whisper of secrets, held sun-soaked bodies sharing wine and stories. It has stayed quiet, and sure, during heated conversations, refusing to fall under stomped feet and the slinging of angry arrows. It has groaned, obligingly, under the weight of my large family, as we decorate for Christmas. Too many cold bodies, over and yet under dressed, all clinging to strands of light in the darkness.
It is where I sit in the mornings, coffee and journal in hand. It is where I end the day, tired, but unafraid. This place is the alter where we lay down our burdens, where the weary find rest, and new mercies are waiting. It smells like tomatoes, and sunscreen, and Starbucks. It is surely the messiest corner of Heaven.
It is the blind I sit in, as the world rushes by. It is the welcome and goodbye for all of my children’s coming and goings, the arbor under which my babies are growing.
It is quiet one moment, a rush of loud conversation the next. A dance between wet and dry, comfort and splinters, our alternate living room during summer’s tempestuous run. It is the vantage point from which we view the changing of the seasons. It is the orchestra pit from which we bare witness, as the trees shake and sway, in eternal dance, to the wind’s barely audible symphony. It is where we sit still, and learn to listen.
Perhaps, this is where I will gather the strength to be kind to my most annoying of neighbors.
Maybe this is where I will sit when I learn to forgive.
Or maybe, this is where I will be when I grasp how to turn the other cheek, to stay silent when others rage, butt in, and proclaim themselves the saviors of a neighborhood that didn’t need saving.