August 8, 2023 / by Cheri Meyer
When mentioning the word “Covid” rarely do we hear a positive response. But that, coupled with the ABF elective on The Art of Neighboring taught by Pastor Justin, was life-changing for me.
In class, when we were handed our 9-square grid to fill out the names and information about our neighbors, I was convicted of how little I knew about the people who currently lived around us. We had been in our home for over 45 years and had transitioned from knowing all the families (many with children attending school with our own) to now mostly empty nests — the smile, wave and pull in the garage stage. We live out of the city limits – not on a block per-se, acre+ lots, no sidewalks or curbs, and on most days there is little opportunity to have meaningful conversations. I did want to know my neighbors better, but Justin reminded us it probably wouldn’t happen unless we were intentional. So I began to daily intentionally pray for those connections.
Covid isolation brought our neighbors out of their homes to taking walks on the street for fresh air, exercise and distanced face-to-face contact. I walked almost every day with my neighbor who knew the people in our area much better than I did. Over time she introduced me to those I didn’t know and told me small details about them. We stopped often to have the conversations I had longed to have… the progress of a man dealing with cancer, a widow downsizing, many dealing with family health issues, two waiting for surgery when the hospitals would once again allow elective procedures, those who couldn’t travel to visit their family due to the restrictions, and more. I ended each encounter letting them know I would be praying for their circumstances. When a political yard sign ignited two neighbors into a strong disagreement, God gave me words to find a common ground and peaceful perspective.
However, the most difficult connection was the one right next door to us who was as rare to spot as an endangered species. I could have been arrested for my attempts to stalk them out my window to see when they got their mail or took out their trash just so I could say “hi” and strike up a brief conversation. At Christmas I delivered treats. When their mailbox was destroyed by an out-of-control vehicle, I arranged with the postal carrier to use our mailbox until theirs could be fixed. I delighted in delivering their mail to their door and check in on them. One day, out of the blue, the man next door told Kerry, “We have never had such good neighbors!” God is at work! Now when driving in our neighborhood we still smile and wave at those we see – but more than a mere passing acknowledgment, it’s a sincere facial expression of “I see you. I know you. I care.”
Cheri and her husband, Kerry, have attended East White Oak for 19 years. They’ve been married 54 years and have two married children and 5 grandchildren (who all reside too far away for their liking.) Cheri is currently helping with the summer children’s ministry and will return to volunteering in L.I.F.E, the after-school program at Oakdale Elementary this fall. She enjoys cooking, her husband’s piano playing, and keeping in touch with her distanced friends and family.