Meeting the Neighbors
As part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge this month, I’ve committed to writing one blog post every day. I enjoy this, and normally, I try to write my post here day before, to publish the next morning.
I procrastinated, no ideas forthcoming. The day got busy, I ran errands, explored the idea of interviewing another off grid homesteader, but that is on hold for now. Since that was my only inspiration, I just planned to come up with something later.
So Much to Do
After unloading my car, after washing the dishes, after my walk, I’d get to that blog post.
My walk did not occur until dusk, and by the time I reached the end of our road, it was pitch dark. As usual, two of our cats followed along with me on our country road.
I’ve made a pact to try to get out more to walk, and I do love walking our road. We live at the end of a dead-end road, with just one other house across from our property. New people moved in recently, and I’ve considered meeting the neighbors, but have not found a way, or the time, or something.
Greg told me that he bumped into them on his way out to work a couple weeks ago, and I was super relieved to find that he thought they were nice.
Our Lonely Road
I have never, in our five years of living here, ever met anyone on our country road. I love to walk in silence, and listen to the sounds of the forest. Now, as we are in the Autumn time, some leaves crunch underfoot, the cats call out to me often, and the birds sing their songs. It’s peaceful. I can think in the silence, or read, which I often do as I walk.
(To actually see a real wildflower walk along my road, you can watch this video on YouTube.)
When I reached the end of our road, my turnabout point, I about-faced. I was engrossed in a Kindle book, intent on my exercise, and in my own head.
I practically dropped my phone when someone shouted, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“Can I help you?” the voice shouted again.
“Umm…no? I’m just taking a walk.”
“But why are you here?”
Indignantly, I retorted, “I live here! I’m taking a walk on my road!”
He didn’t get it, because he repeated his question as to who I was and why was I down there.
I truly felt flabbergasted. “I’m walking with my cats.” Well, that sounded intelligent. I was not only flabbergasted, but confused as to why I needed to defend my presence. My mind drifted back to our land contract, which specifically stated the right of way to this particular road.
“I AM OUT TAKING A WALK.”
“But why,” the voice demanded from the darkness.
“BECAUSE I WANT TO GET SOME EXERCISE. I come down here all the time. THIS IS MY ROAD. I LIVE HERE.”
He seemed confused too, and it was very dark. I could not even see his face, and that freaked me out a little. I assumed he may have been the new neighbor, but it felt more like an interrogation, not a meeting the neighbors engagement.
I asked him if he’d please come out of the darkness, since this was just weird.
All of the sudden all of my words stated up to that point seemed to sink in, and he heard me.
“You live here? Where?”
“Right here. This is our property. I live up the hill. You met my husband not long ago.”
“Oh. OH–you mean GREG is your husband?”
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I live here.”
Well, then suddenly everything was hunky-dory. Big smiles, apologies, and introductions.
“You scared me, walking around with your light!”
“Umm…what do you think you did to me? Screaming at me in the dark?”
“Oh, yeah…well, we scared each other.”
Boy, did we ever! I was pretty rattled.
“My wife saw your light, and we’d never seen that before, so I ran down with my gun.”
“Well, I certainly thank you for not shooting me before you figured out I wasn’t some kind of trespassing person!” Or whatever…I did not point out that merely walking down the road with a light is not a crime, whether I live here or not.
Not Like I Planned
This was not the way I’d envisioned meeting the neighbors, but it did make an impact. I kind of assumed I’d be meeting the neighbors on the road one day in the light, since they routinely walk that road (my road). It seems like we are both a bit possessive about our walking road, but we can share it, as long as we know that we are mutually harmless.
After initially meeting the neighbors, and that whole snafu, they actually turned out to be super nice! I chatted with our new neighbor for a few minutes, then we heard yelling on the hill–his hill. His wife, worried about why he’d not come back, kept yelling to check up on him.
A Lot of Yelling
He returned the yelling, and that went back and forth a few times, neither hearing what the other said. She finally plodded down the driveway to find out why her husband had not returned from his safety check. Turns out for them, meeting the neighbors was fine, just as long as we didn’t surprise them by walking in the dark.
After close to an hour of chatting, my new neighbor actually walked me back to our driveway, at his wife’s insistence. That was so sweet.
All’s Well That Ends Well, Right?
I do believe that in the end, meeting the neighbors like this worked out well. It caught us both off guard, but after the initial tension, we found some common interests, and I think we will end up good neighbors!
My Tips for Meeting the Neighbors for the First Time (for what it’s worth, since I did none of these things)
- Do some planning.
- Show up with something yummy. Home made, home baked–those are sure wins! I think I’ll backtrack and take them a jar of homemade applesauce.
- Show up in the daylight hours.
- Announce your presence. (Maybe honk or something. Apparently a flashlight isn’t enough to allay their fears)
- Consider a book or something, but if it’s political or religious, it would probably be best to wait until you’re established in a friendship first.
- Share your garden goodies! Assuming you grow a garden. If not, better get started before the next neighbors move in.
- Plan a little time in the day for meeting the neighbors, if you actually want to seem neighborly. Don’t just knock, drop the goods, and run!
- Feel them out. If they don’t seem the type to chat, then disregard the previous point. Just smile, introduce yourself, and leave quickly. Don’t overstay your welcome.
- Be ready to provide the new neighbors with some resources for your area. Phone numbers, websites, maps, directions, etc. Turns out our neighbors did their research and probably know more about our area than we do. They even met the mayor of our tiny town, and I don’t even know his name!
- Ask meaningful questions. People generally like to share about themselves, their kids, their jobs, and their pets. Pick something that seems safe.
- Try to wave to the neighbors at their mailboxes, when they’re driving along, or when you’re out walking your cats. It might turn out better for you than it did for me.
Meeting the Neighbors, For Real
In this modern time in which we live, people often (like, almost always) never meet the neighbors. We have no clue who they are, what makes them tick (until we tick them off), or why they’re here.
We live in a very rural area. Most of the driveways run up the hill, around a corner into the mysterious land of the people next door, and around these parts, you don’t go hiking up someone’s hill. You don’t even drive up and knock, because you might just quickly be introduced to the end of a gun barrel.
Why is Meeting the Neighbors Even Important?
That said, we still have a responsibility to reach out and make friends. Especially as Christians, we want to get to know our neighbors so we can help them if they have a need, so we can pray for them, and just because good neighbors are better than bad neighbors. That goes both ways.
We can continue to be aloof neighbors, or work on meeting the neighbors; any who are willing. With time, good friendship, and helping out in times of need, we can maybe even be instrumental in turning those bad neighbors into good neighbors.
Once our neighbors and I spent time together chatting, I definitely know that they belong in the good neighbor category. All it took was an introduction, time, and interest.
So now that leaves me wondering–most of the neighbors that we’ve met on our road have been great. Are the others the same, and we just don’t know it yet?
(If you like reading about my foibles, try The Lost Key/Trapped in a Van 🤦♀️)