I walk the streets of my neighborhood with my wife and our three foster children in buggies, and I take pleasure in the garden in which God has placed our home. Crepe Myrtles, lilac bushes, roses, varieties of colorful flowers, fruit trees, manicured lawns on block after block. We live in a nice area. It is a great comfort to live here and walk around viewing it all.
I don’t want to misrepresent myself here. This is not the luxury area. These are not the fine custom homes of Lubbock, nor is the new area. These homes are well established with old growth trees. They were likely some of the finest homes in town 30 – 40 years ago, and they are (for the most part) well maintained even now. Very few appear to suffer disrepair or appear to be in the rental market. Half, or more, of these properties play home to established families who have lived here for years – some for decades.
I love our house, even though by my estimation it is the smallest in our area. I have spotted four within our square mile that appear run down, but other than those, we have the most humble of the bunch. Our drive way has cracks, the fence out back (though holding up) is well worn and needs repairs. But all of this just feels like HOME to me. I feel very much at HOME down in my bones in this house. It reminds me of my parents’ home or even my grandparents. I feel connected to this place in those deep recesses of my heart.
I love the fact that my neighbors all invest in their homes too. We don’t have a neighborhood association that governs us. I suspect there are some fairly strict zoning ordinances for our area at city hall, but I have never had cause to check them. Therefore, I sense a camaraderie of shared values. And I must say, that is hard to beat.
Our homes may be a bit old, but they are not cookie cutter homes. These are custom homes from yesteryear. Yet, they mostly look like they belong together. There is little variance in styles. The pastor who lives to the west of me is retired, but keeps an immaculate lawn, whereas the retired FBI agent who lives to the east of me keeps a lovely natural landscape that requires no watering or mowing. Both look very attractive, which keeps pressure on me to maintain my lawn if I want to “keep up with the Jones’s” – so to speak.
But you know what? These little pressures keep home feeling like HOME in that way.
Yes, I walk the streets with my family observing the comforts of HOME that my neighbors invest into their homes, and I admire most of them. But I am a bit bothered by all of this too. For even though I see “welcome” mats on door steps, I also see home security signs in flower beds, and those just seem a bit out of kilter to me somehow. It’s like the one sign says “welcome” to all while another just a few feet away says UN-welcome.
So which is it?
I look at my own front yard for signs, whether overt or subtle, that welcome people. I have thought about putting a sign up on the door that says, “Strangers welcome” or “Trespassers welcome” or maybe “Loitering Allowed”. But I think that would puzzle (or upset) my neighbors and just be weird in general.
What does my yard say about me? About the God I serve?
I have considered moving the park bench from the porch out to the sidewalk right next to it, where people walk by pushing baby strollers or taking the dog out for a walk. If the bench were just one or two inches away from the sidewalk, I think it would be kinda weird still, but I also think it would be inviting. I wonder who might stop and sit a bit. Perhaps I could paint a message on it: “Welcome (no, we really mean it)“.
As I walk around my block, I find “Neighborhood Watch” program signs posted in alleys and on back fences. And I think, I have never been contacted by any neighbors about watching my property. I, of course, try to be an observant neighbor and look in on the retired folks next door from time to time if I see something odd. But honestly, we don’t talk much. The old man next door could slip in his shower, and the only signal I would have that something is wrong is if I see his newspapers pile up on the step for several days. I would need to be very observant to catch that, but by the time I did, the old man would have been stranded in his shower for 3 or 4 days, maybe. Probably wouldn’t have a pulse by then. What kind of neighborhood watch is that?
I think it’s a false sense of security on the one hand and an unwelcome mat on the other.
As I have said several times on this blog, I grew up in small-town, rural America where most folks were neighbors – neighbors in that sense that they really know each other. That sense where we shared in each others’ lives a bond of community and trust. Where if the neighbor man was missing even one day, someone would likely realize it and go check on him. (Not a hundred percent solid, but likely.)
My neighborhood is nice, and it feels like HOME to me, but there is too much anonymity and too little trust. And, sadly, it shows, if only you look carefully. We don’t really trust each other, and we post signs warning outsiders that we don’t trust them either.
Abraham was a rich man. He owned a lot of property, but he lived in tents like a homeless man. Rich and homeless. And when he saw strangers trespassing his lawn, he jumped up and put on a party for them. He seems not to have realized it at that time, but he was playing host to the Lord, his God (Gen. 18), and entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2). I think that if we could dress our neighborhood watch up in signs of hospitality, it would make the place just a bit more attractive – a bit more HOME.
I wonder what that would look like.
Heaven on earth?