Tag Archives: The Art of Neighboring

How Well Do You Rest & Receive?

Neighborly Love, Part IV

Mar20_2016

Point to Ponder:
Do you rest and receive?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

As I continue to read the book The Art of Neighboring (the inspiration of our Neighborly Love journal series), chapter 8 “The Art of Receiving” has my soul stirring. Why…because I am a terrible receiver, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us prefer being the giver and doer for others, rather than being the receiver. We are women who are designed to nurture, give and serve which is all wonderful and beautiful; however, I’m curious if the pendulum has swung so far to the service, giving and doing side that our ability to be available and receive love, help and service from others has become painful and next to impossible. I suggest this because this is me and my life.

To be absolutely honest, receiving makes me squirm and feel weak. Just last night a sweet family invited us to dinner so they could introduce us to their friends. Being “the new kids on the block”, we were beyond grateful for their kindness, hospitality, and generosity, but Russell and I left asking one another, “beyond writing a thank you note, bringing a bottle of wine, flowers and saying thank you a million times, what more can we do to let them know how grateful we are?!” While my restless and discontent soul desires to take action and do something for them, I know that my opportunity is to practice receiving my neighbor’s beautiful love, and I wonder if this is an opportunity for you too?

In Chapter 8, The Art of Receiving, the authors wrote this,

“Great neighborhoods are built on reciprocal relationships, on two-way streets. At the end of the day, no one wants to feel like a project. We want to feel that we bring something to the table. But, when it comes to neighboring well, one of the biggest temptations is to turn neighbors into projects. We put on the “super neighbor cape” and rush out to serve our neighbors and make a difference on the block. This really isn’t a bad thing, but if this is all we ever do, then our relationships will be empty. If we don’t allow people to meet any of our needs, we limit what God wants to do in our neighborhood and in our life. To be on the receiving end is very difficult. Our tendency is to put ourselves in a position of power- being the one to give. We want to be seen as the capable one with the resources and answers. But being in a relationship where we allow others to meet our needs is always a good thing. The art of neighboring involves our being able to give of our time and energy, and just as important, to receive from others.”

Ay-yi-yi! That’s me! I loathe feeling weak and always want to be in a power position–even when it comes to my relationship with my husband (my closest neighbor). Ironically, last night while at the dinner table, I had an incredible conversation with one of the women, who like me and maybe even you, is blessed and cursed with the perfectionist, achievement, accomplishment and busy bug. She reminded me that our greatest opportunity is to rest and receive God’s love, which often is our neighbors love. However, if we’re busy doing all of the time, how will we ever fully receive all of the love?  More importantly, if we don’t allow ourselves to fully receive the love, how will we ever be able to fully give the love we are created to give?

So, what’s the formula to being able to receive? According to the book, it’s humility and vulnerability. Having humility allows us to admit that we actually need help, and vulnerability gives us to the courage to put ourselves out there and ask for help. And, per the wisdom from my new friend, I am also adding rest, meaning a little time everyday– away from all of our ridiculous distractions (I mean really?!? We are inundated!), like our phones, computers, television, radio, work, people, and busy schedules, where you can be still and available to meditate, pray, and tune into our Divine Source. For me, this is a time of prayer, asking God to expose my weaknesses and prideful ways so that I can hear Him and be fully present and available to receive all of the love He has for me, which is also the love that we allow ourselves to receive from our neighbors.

Action Item:
Allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to stop and receive love, help and service from others.

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Are You Available?

Neighborly Love, Part II

Journal_March6_TurqTable

Point to Ponder:
Do you live at a pace that makes you available to those around you?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

Last Friday morning we, iGnite, launched our first of four, Friends & Fitness at the Turquoise Table neighborhood workouts. In case you are unaware of what the Turquoise Table is, it was originated by Austinite Kristin Schell, as a meeting place for neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together in the front yard. The table has spurred a front yard revival in neighborhoods all across the country and has become a welcome place to gather and love.

As hoped, our Friday morning workout around the table was nothing short of beautiful. Set in the front yard of iGnite member, Melissa Morrow, and centered around her turquoise table enhanced with spring flowers, snacks and iGnite’s favorite and healthy Cranberry Water beverage, the weather was flawless and the morning was filled with invigorating exercise, conversation and laughter. As described by Melissa Morrow, it was a “Friday morning party.

With fellowship being our purpose we were delighted in the outcome, however a spontaneous perk was birthed from simply being in the front yard and around the turquoise table. Following the workout, as everyone gathered around the table to engage in conversation and snacking, a curious neighbor walking his dog stopped to inquire about the front yard gathering. Excitingly, this was a neighbor Melissa had never met and for a few minutes he stayed, talked and nibbled on the snacks. He even encouraged Melissa to let him know next time she had another front yard turquoise gathering because he would attend. How cool is that?!

In conjunction with the turquoise table movement, last spring I began reading The Art of Neighboring. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it so I have started reading it again, however while reading last year what impacted me the most were the words of the former mayor of Denver, who said “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.” WOW!

Currently, as I continue to read the book and attempt to finish it, the following comments and questions have caused me to pause and evaluate how neighborly I am as well as the changes I need to make in order to be good neighbor to my physical neighbors: “Our purpose in life is to love God and love others. Living a hurried, frantic lifestyle is the opposite of what God wants for our lives. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have. Ask yourself this question: Do I live at a pace that allows me to be available to those around me? When we create the right kind of margins we can live with a level of peace that allows us to be interruptible, which gives us time to know our neighbors.”

Unfortunately, our home in San Diego does not have a front yard, so my sweet turquoise picnic table that was incredibly useful in helping us get to know more of our neighbors in Austin is resting in the garage. I am hopeful that one day I will be able to bring it out again, however it’s safe to say that despite not having a front yard or turquoise table, that should not hinder my efforts in getting to know my neighbors. Our neighborhood is designed in a way that we live very close to one another, with ample sidewalks and people out and about. It would be a breeze for me to sit on my front porch and meet my neighbors — I just have to make it a priority, make myself available, be approachable and be engaging. For me, this means being intentional with scheduling the time outside, on my front porch and not having my head buried in my iPhone or computer (the book labels these as “time stealers”).

Despite our busy schedules and all of the many distractions that prevent us from getting to know our neighbors, knowing and loving our neighbors is a vital part of a functional, stable, healthy, compassionate and loving community and world. There are many wonderful community and global efforts that help and save people in need, but equally as important are our physical neighbors. As a result, this week I encourage you to spend time in your front yard with the goal that you get to know one of your neighbors. Or, if there is a new neighbor on your street, somebody you haven’t met yet, or you don’t live close to anyone, make an effort to introduce yourself. Drop off a note or knock on their door to say hello. Ultimately, we don’t have to become best friends with our neighbors, but the first step in becoming a community of great neighbors is getting to know who our neighbors are.

Action Item:

Spend time in your front yard with the goal that you get to know one of your neighbors. Or, if there is a new neighbor on your street, somebody you haven’t met yet, or you don’t live close to anyone, make an effort to introduce yourself. Drop off a note or knock on their door to say hello.

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Happiness through Neighboring

iGnite - The purpose of lifePoint to Ponder:
What aspect of your life brings you the most happiness?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Currently I am reading a very interesting book called The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. It’s an easy read and pretty common sense, but I’m completely hooked and fascinated. Based on the title you’ve probably figured out that the book is about how to be a good neighbor, but more important is the why — why it is critical to our society that we be good neighbors.

In the first chapter, a group of ministers in the Denver, Colorado area met with their city mayor to learn how they could help serve the city. The mayor responded: “The majority of the issues our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.” He then added, “Government programs aren’t always the most effective way to address social issues. Relationships are more important than programs because they are organic and ongoing. The idea is that when neighbors are in relationship with one another, the elderly shut-in gets cared for by the person next door, the at-risk kid gets mentored by a dad who lives on the block, and so on.”

Honestly, I haven’t made it past the first chapter because I am continuing to contemplate just that paragraph. Of course the mayor is right. In theory it sounds so simple, but it appears that societally we are way off.

Ironically, while reading The Art of Neighboring, I came upon an interesting article in SUCCESS Magazine by Patty Onderko called Oh, Happy Day. The article states that research has found that happy people are healthier, live longer, give back more to their communities, cultivate stronger family and social ties and even make more money. The article also lists these ten evidence-based ways to be happy (by actionforhappiness.org):

  1. Giving: Do things for others
  2. Relating: Connecting with people
  3. Exercising: Take care of your body
  4. Appreciating: Notice the world around you
  5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
  6. Direction: Have a goal to look forward to
  7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
  8. Emotion: Take a positive approach
  9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

After reading this article I began thinking about the time in my life when food and exercise consumed all of my thoughts. I was constantly calculating fat and calories, thinking about my next meal and never allowed myself the pleasure of a splurge — at least without a five to ten mile run to follow. I was obsessed with the scale and a one to three pound weight increase would sabotage my day. It was also during a time when I was younger, worked in a gym and was surrounded by mirrors. It’s interesting because looking back I can see that the harder I worked out and the more restrictive my diet was, the more my body literally fought back. I was out of balance, my priorities were out of line, my focus was too inward and therefore my body (and I) was not happy. It wasn’t until I had a literal mental and spiritual shift, got outside of myself, and realized that life was much bigger and more meaningful than a number on a scale or the size of my clothes, that my whole body became happy. Ironically, I stopped exercising as much, I didn’t eat “perfectly,” and I rested more, yet my body felt better and performed better — all the while the size of my clothes stayed the same. I’ve since ditched the scale.

You may be wondering, “Neissa, what in the world do neighboring, being happy, and diet and exercise have to do with one another?” The answer is everything. Happiness cannot be achieved from being primarily inward-focused. For sure it’s easier and feels safer to be focused on ourselves, our families and our homogeneous circles, but true happiness comes from living for and in the things that are bigger than ourselves. Could it be possible that there’s a real connection between our society being the most wealthy it’s ever been, while simultaneously unhappiness and neighborly love are on the decline?

For me, there was a time when my idol was my body. Other idols that can prevent us from living outwardly and being neighborly are our children, family, work, social circles, wealth, television, social media — anything that causes us to live inward and be “me-focused.” As the wonderful quote above suggests, the ultimate goal is to be useful, honorable and compassionate, a.k.a. being a good neighbor, which in my opinion produces ultimate happiness!

Action Item:
Do something for a neighbor who you have never met or interacted with before. This could be baking cookies, writing a note, knocking on their door to say hello — anything!

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