By Jenni Key | May 1, 2020
My husband Jim and I have lived in our current house for oh, about 38 years. You’d think we would have evangelized for several blocks in each direction by now. Well, not for lack of trying.
We’ve done the usual stuff: hosted Christmas parties for 30-40 neighbors (one year we had costumed Dickens carolers from the church as part of this); organized multi-family garage sales; loaned out ladders, power tools and saw horses; offered lemons from our tree. And we actually sit out on our front porch every Halloween (so no one has to bother with ringing the doorbell and waiting) and hand out candy to the first 500 people who show up. No, that’s not a typo. 500 trick-or-treaters is a lot.
And we’ve prayed. We’ve drawn street maps, coloring in where we knew people’s names (and/or dogs’ names!), prayer walking with intentionality. As a matter of fact, early in this stay-at-home season I prayer walked with a clipboard and wrote down the names of everyone I knew in the spokes of streets radiating out from our home; I wrote down 55 names.
Three weeks later, Jim and I made the rounds of ten houses with specially prepared gift bags. It was the day before Easter so if they had kids they got a set of Easter card games along with gummy bears and then chocolate bars for the adults. If there were adults only, they got chocolate bars and a mini jar of Meghan Ruesga’s Triple Berry Jam which I buy by the dozen (Meghan—now we’ve run out! Hint, hint: please get canning!). Along with the treats we included the card produced by the church that said “We love our neighbors!” with a place for our contact info. And we prayed as we walked, rang doorbells and put beribboned bags on each doorstep.
Almost immediately we received thank you calls on the numbers we’d given, thank you emails at the addresses we’d supplied. One man said, “Thank you! You’re probably still out on your neighborly rounds but I’m dropping off some oranges and chocolate chip cookies.” Others came out onto porches and we conversed over the span of lawns or driveways. Within the next couple of days we heard from all but one couple.
And we wondered. We’ve kept trying through the years, extending invitations, looking for common ground as an excuse to start a conversation. We hoped the bag hadn’t just sat for days on their front porch, not taken in, chocolate melting.
That is until Monday. The doorbell rang, and when I went to open it, there was the most beautiful vase of home grown roses and ranunculi, a ziplock bag with a wipe inside identified “disinfectant” and a short note: “Jenni & Jim, thank you for your kind gift of candy, jam and friendship . . .”
“Friendship.” I actually got kinda teary when I read that word. Lord, you were listening, you were working. Thank you.