I'm what you might call a "professional introvert." When it comes to meeting my neighbors, I can come up with a million excuses to avoid it. Every time I plan to take the plunge, I spend weeks fretting over what to do, what to include in my gift bags, when to gather the needed items, and whether I should just hide in my house instead. I go from eager anticipation to wanting to curl up into a ball and disappear—it's exhausting!
But once I'm out there, something amazing happens. I meet some of the most wonderful people in my neighborhood, and they're always surprised by my simple gift bags. Oftentimes, they confess that they too would like to meet their neighbors, and suddenly we find common ground. I come home feeling like a social butterfly, with ideas for more ways to get to know my neighbors.
Unfortunately, the agonizing cycle soon repeats itself once I think about reaching out to them again.
I used to rely on my husband to be the "front man" when it came to meeting the neighbors. He'd strike up a conversation and before I knew it, he'd be telling me all about the small business owner across the street, the teacher next-door, or the elderly couple behind us. But as his health declined and then he passed away last year, I've had to find my own way of connecting with my community.
As I am reflecting on all this, I realize that the anxiety-ridden cycle I find myself in is not solely due to being introverted. I’m starting to see that my focus has been on myself rather than others. While I believe that people do tend to be energized by either spending time with others (extroverted) or being alone (introverted), my fretting is a result of my constant self-analysis. I need to shift my focus towards what God can do and the people He wants me to meet.
Shortly after this insight, I got an opportunity to stop by my elderly neighbor’s house to receive some sweet potatoes. Rather than allowing my mind to spiral out of control, I made a conscious decision to put her needs first: she had an abundance of sweet potatoes and wanted to generously give them away. I had a delightful time chatting with my neighbor—and even received some cookies as a bonus! This experience was truly life-giving and reminded me of the importance of prioritizing others.
So, the next time you get anxious about meeting your neighbor, I encourage you to take a deep breath, shift your focus from yourself to others, and embrace the moment with open arms. Take your eyes off yourself and focus on God who is inviting you to be part of what He is already doing in the lives of your neighbors. God has placed each of us in our neighborhoods for a purpose. By reaching out, we just might get the chance to join God in bringing light and hope to their lives.
Margie Thompson is a a Project Strategist for FamilyLife serving mainly in the areas of neighboring and mentoring. She has three adult children and two dogs. Her passions are teaching women and children about the grace and truth found in Christ. She loves creative pursuits like cake decorating and baking.