The Gift of Doing Life with Your Neighbors

It’s a beautiful fall day, the air is crisp and sweet and the leaves outside my window a lovely bouquet of colors. My house is filled with the comforting aroma of simmering soup and biscuits baking in the oven. It’s Wednesday Dinner night, the highlight of the week where four neighboring families come together to share a meal and life together.

My family and I moved from the suburbs into the heart of Milwaukee just over a year ago. We expected to experience changes and challenges in our new community, what we did not expect was the way our new community would wrap around us. Wednesday Dinners have been happening without us each week for years yet our neighbors were kind enough to welcome us into the fold — and a crazy fold it is! We are just four families yet there are nineteen kids amongst us between the ages of two and thirteen so, as you can imagine, the house gets very loud and very messy, very quickly! 

We rotate houses each week and get to try a delicious array of new foods. Some weeks we have deep meaningful conversations about our worldviews or hot-button topics, other weeks we keep it light perhaps sharing our most embarrassing stories. Though our topic of conversation may vary, our love and respect for each other is constant. Sometimes we disagree about parenting tactics or the way we process events happening around us and sometimes one of us just flat out offends another but that’s how life truly lived together goes – sometimes it gets messy and that’s okay. It’s okay because this is authentic life and if we are truly going to do life with others we are going to disagree or offend from time to time so we must learn how to navigate disagreeing in love.

Society likes to tell us that if we disagree with someone, they are our enemy. What I have learned is that those I disagree with simply see something differently than I do and if I take the time to listen, my eyes might be opened to something I couldn’t see before. I have learned so much from our Wednesday Dinner neighbors both from observation and in conversation.

These neighbors, these friends, have given me a greater view of what love is. They took a chance and welcomed us in when they didn’t know us and they continue to love me and my family well.

Being in community with these neighbors has grown beautiful friendships for our kids and us. When one family went on vacation last year their kids brought back souvenirs for the neighbor friends and I was blown away by the simple act of love. I can say for certain my children have never had friends like that before. What’s more, I’ve never had friends quite like this, friends who would bring a meal over after a busy week, friends who would gladly watch your littles so you can go get a massage, and friends who would laugh and cry and carry your burdens with you. 

There have been difficult realities we have faced in moving to the city but there have been by far more beautiful revelations. Wednesday Dinners have been one of those beautiful gifts we have uncovered. The gift of doing life with your neighbors is one of the greatest things the city of Milwaukee has given to me. 

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