Brighten the Corner Where You Are
“Brighten the corner where you are; Brighten the corner where you are….”
That’s an old song…a very old song. It’s one we used to sing in church. I hadn’t heard it in years. A lot of years—until a few months ago. It wasn’t by coincidence, either. I had been praying; asking God to use me in a more specific way. I have always been the type of gal to serve my family, in my church, and in my community. But at this particular point in my life, and for a number of reasons, the opportunities for service just weren’t there. But I am still here, and I wanted and needed to serve. I just didn’t know how—or rather who, where, or what God wanted me to do. Until…
Until I heard the piano playing, “Brighten the corner where you are….” That was it! That was what God was telling me to do—to brighten my corner, aka my neighborhood. So, that is what I started doing. And let me tell you, the blessings are flowing! So much so, that God doesn’t want me to keep this to myself. He wants me to share it with all of you, so that YOU can brighten the corners where YOU are! Why? Because, well, for several reasons, actually.
Reason #1: With all the ranting, protesting, and angry rhetoric being shouted and broadcast around, the only way we can be heard is when we are up-close-and-personal with someone (in person or via text, email, messaging).
Reason #2: We are relational by nature. We need friends. We need companionship. We need camaraderie. We need community. It’s what makes us function optimally.
Reason #3: Brightening our corners is the surest and best way to bridge the disconnect plaguing our society, to teach our children (and remind ourselves) what compassion, kindness, and good ole-fashioned neighborliness looks like, and to make our little corner of the world a more pleasant, enjoyable, and safer place to live.
Okay, you say, that sounds great. But how does one go about doing that? And what if I don’t live in a neighborhood (in the traditional sense)? Or what if people think I’m weird or nosy, or maybe even out to get them?
I know it might be a little nerve wracking or even scary to get started. But once you do, I promise you—you won’t be sorry. Besides, I’m going to be here to help.
So, let’s start with something simple and safe—something you can do without even making eye contact with anyone.
DECIDE WHO YOUR NEIGHBORS ARE. In other words, figure out where the boundary lines (so to speak) of your neighborhood lie. Do you live in an apartment building or complex? If it’s just one building, then that’s your answer. If it’s a series or complex of buildings, it might depend on how many there are. Maybe you’ll want to start with just your building, or yours and the one or two closest to you. Maybe you want to limit your neighborhood to just your street, or your street and the one ‘behind’ yours (the street with which you share back yard boundaries with). Or maybe you live in a subdivision with obvious perimeters. Just decide.
START GETTING TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. If you are already acquainted with anyone in the neighborhood, great! But don’t limit yourself to them. Start taking daily walks through the neighborhood, saying ‘hi’, to anyone you meet, waving at the neighbors who drive by, and that sort of thing. Sit outside in the evening…in the front yard. When others walk past, say ‘hi’ and ask them how their day went, or wish them a pleasant ‘rest of the evening’. You can also compliment their child’s shiny new bike, their cute dog, or whatever else is appropriate.
If you live in an apartment, I don’t recommend roaming the halls, but simple conversations on the stairs or in the elevator are definitely in order.
GO ONE-ON-ONE. Once you have established a familiarity between you and a few neighbors, take that all-important next step and invite them to join you for a little one-on-one conversation…or a small gathering of four to six neighbors. For those neighbors you already know (even casually), this won’t be hard. Invite them for coffee (your house or a local coffee shop), to go for a walk with you through the neighborhood, or for a visit on the porch/patio with iced tea and possibly even dessert.
Be honest about why you invited them. Let them know you want to be a better neighbor and that you want to do some things to make your neighborhood a more pleasant and neighborly place to live. Offer up a few ides you have on how to make that happen (we’ll get to that in our next ‘lesson’) and ask them what they think. Would they be interested in spending a little more time together? In helping you brighten the corner where you all live?
Brightening YOUR corner may consist of establishing a solid (or more solid) relationship with the next-door neighbor so that you know you have someone you can count on in an emergency, and who can count on you just the same. The end. But for some of you (like me), you may decide you need and want to do more. Either way, I hope you will ‘stay tuned’ over the next several weeks (or months) to get ideas and encouragement on how you can go from hardly knowing anyone around you, to knowing you can borrow a cup of milk or ask someone to pick up your mail while you are on vacation, knowing that the people you ask will be more than happy to oblige.