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Making New Friends

It takes a good neighbor to be a good neighbor—that and a little creativity!

Neighbors use creativity to bond

I  unpacked another box in the living room, carefully peeling away sheet after sheet of the newspaper protecting our picture frames, candleholders and vases.

For a moment I stopped and peeked out the front window, hoping to see a neighbor coming up the drive to introduce herself. But there was no one. Only the sound of the wind. Like all the times I’d checked before.

It was late January, a month since my husband, teenage son and I had moved into our new house, and still not a soul had come over even to say hi, let alone bring a housewarming gift. What was up with my new neighbors?

I looked out the window again. The skeleton-like trees in the front yard only added to my loneliness. It was odd, at 43, to feel like the new kid, wondering if I was going to be accepted.

I’d been excited about the move. There was more room, a space where we could grow a garden, even a swimming pool. Most of all we were in a real neighborhood. Where we’d come from, farther out in the country, we lived next to a highway, not the kind of place where people strolled over to borrow a cup of sugar or chat after dinner. I’d so looked forward to getting to know everyone.

I’d asked God to help me meet some good friends here, never imagining it would be this difficult. Love your neighbors? I thought now. I’d settle for just knowing their names.

I had thought about making the effort to introduce myself. But the few times I’d seen people out in their yards it had usually been just as they were getting home or on their way out. I didn’t want to impose and, well, I was busy too, rushing out the door to get to my part-time job at the college or to pick up dinner fixings at the grocery store.

I emptied a few more boxes, then decided to take a break to go to the mall. I got in the car and backed out of the driveway. Glancing behind me to look for traffic, I caught a glimpse of the house across the street. That’s odd, I thought. There was a wooden wheelchair ramp attached to the porch. I hadn’t noticed that before.

As I drove past the next-door neighbors’ I saw a big blue ribbon tied to their mailbox. They must have had a baby! I felt a tingle of excitement. I ought to get them a little gift, I thought.

I picked up a baby blanket at the mall and had it wrapped. On the way home I stopped to deliver it, introducing myself. “That’s so sweet,” the young mother said, cradling her newborn. “I wish I’d been able to come over and welcome you but I’ve hardly had a moment…”

“I know how it is,” I said. I could remember all those sleepless nights with a new baby and how exhausted I’d been. My life was a breeze compared to hers.

Back home I stared out the front window at the house across the street. That wheelchair ramp. Maybe there’s something I can do to help. Suddenly, unpacking another box of books didn’t seem that important.

I whipped up a batch of cookies and took them across the street. The woman who answered the door looked tired, but when she saw the plate in my hand her face broke into a smile.

“My son broke his hip and had to move back in with us,” she said. “I’ve barely had a chance to leave the house.”

I gave her a hug, wishing I had come over sooner, but in the tightness of her embrace I felt something unexpected: friendship. That was the first of many hugs we’ve exchanged over the years. We’ve shared vegetables from our gardens, cookie recipes, countless joys and sorrows. The best way to make friends, it turns out, is to be one.

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