We didn’t do a thorough research when we moved into this neighborhood. All I wanted was to be closer to work and have some friends nearby- so I could swing home in case there was an emergency with the kids; drop off my expressed breast-milk; have emergency childcare when needed. These were my priorities when we moved here. 3 years later, the work place is out of the picture. The relationships have drifted apart. In retrospect, I wish I had not insisted my husband on these things when deciding on a house. He is ,of course, always the wiser one :)!
All that being said, it does give an idea that I am a very relational person and my kids are a priority. When I first got to know our next door neighbors- I asked them what their thoughts were on having a ‘getting to know your neighbors party.’ I would totally organize it and send out the invites. She rolled her eyes. She did not like the idea. She did not think this would ever happen. Regardless, we have become good friends. Their handyman son has come to our rescue several times. Thankful for them.
The neighbors on the other side of our house had young kids. Initially, we invited the kids to play with our kids. It did not take too long to discover that we would need to keep our distance from them. Their young kid lacked discipline and hurt our kids. Many of our kids’ stuff went missing. Among them was our kids’ prized item, soccer. Many months passed. It did not show up. And then it did. The next door kids were playing with it. I knew it was ours. I walked to their driveway, grabbed the ball, and saw our name inscribed on it. I told the mother that my kids must have kicked the ball in their yard. Her response was one that I will never forget. “Oh goodness, it is just a ball.” I was quite struck by that attitude. In stead of teaching her kids the right thing to do, she never even attempted to tell the kids that they should not assume ownership of what is not theirs, especially if you know who it belongs to. A few other things have gone missing and even if I see them with their kids now, I probably will never ask.
Couple summers ago, we had a garage sale. We first came across this new neighbor through this sale. They too had young kids. In our brief visit, I gathered that they were a pretty decent family. Our kids had noticed their two cute dogs. Then, there was a time when something came up at work. With my work, I never knew when I would need to drop everything and just leave. My husband was not around. No other friends were available. I had to make a courageous move. I walked to this neighbor and asked if she would watch my kids due to an emergency that had come up at work. She was very surprised, but was really kind to agree to watch them. I had entrusted my kids with someone I did not know a whole lot about. Yet, my gut-feeling was that I could trust them.
Since then we became a little more friendly. I ran into her at my son’s school. I had thrown the idea about alternating taking our kids to school. She said okay but it never really happened. I sometimes had my son go with them and had them pick up our kid when we could not. Anyway, in my effort to try to get to know this family more- I invited her for coffee and her whole family over for dinner. But, there was never an interest from their side. They never invited our kids to play with them. The efforts always seemed one-sided. And I was getting a little discouraged and frustrated. And I equated that with my other friendships and relationships where I worked harder on maintenance. I don’t know whether this is an American thing that has plagued even the communities that are not American and are supposed to be more relational.
A week prior to that, I had another emergency and needed to find someone immediately to take care of my kids. My husband who was supposed to return in time got stranded and I was getting late for my work appointment. I called this neighbor to see if she could stay with my kids at my house for 5-10 mins until my husband came back. My kids were still in their jammies and I had no time to dress them and take them to her house. She was surprised again. She said she needed to ask her husband about it. What? Couldn’t she even make simple decisions like that herself? All her kids were in school. She didn’t call back right away. So I called her and told her if she didn’t feel comfortable staying at our house, I could just bring them over. So that was that.
Finally, yesterday, her kids and my kids all walked to school. Her mind was pre-occupied. It was obvious she wanted to ask something. Knowing her I didn’t investigate. She finally opened up and asked, “Could you please do me a big favor?” Her oldest had missed her bus and was going to take the public bus to school. Her husband had already left for work. I was like, “Of course.” Finally, she asked for help from me. Finally, I felt the reciprocation. Finally, she was responding to my desire to befriend and somewhat do life together. That day was also significant in that she opened up to me. She said she was sorry she could not go over to my house to be my with the kids even if it was just for a few minutes. She said it was hard for her to easily trust people. It was hard for her to ask for help.
Relationships. Friendship. Trust. Help. Gratitude. All these are foundational in creating a solid relationship. Once any of that is lost, especially trust, it is so hard to ever trust again. Trusting comes so easy to me. It is perhaps my strongest and also the weakest. I make friends easily and easily do they break, perhaps because I put so much trust, easily. Despite, the betrayal and heartaches I have experienced because of it, I still don’t stop. It is one of the values I operate from. It is deeply engrained in me. Yes, it is my weakest but I will continue to use it as my strength. I think I have gained a friend through this. I am hoping that my invitation to trust this new friend and her trust in me will grow. I hope that she can open up. I hope she can ask for help, more. And in hope does this thing called life carries on……..