The threat of the hurricane brought our whole street out of our houses on Tuesday afternoon. One neighbor knocked boards out of our shared fence to alleviate potential flooding. Nate and I boarded up our house in an abundance of caution. And on the other side, an elderly friend asked for a few minutes of help with his sandbags. Meanwhile, we shared stories of the past and predictions of the future, and we promised to help each other out once the storm passed. We were grateful to know our neighbors.
As we calculated the possibility of floods, pondered the fate of our trees, and worried over my vegetable garden, we were also particularly conscious that our neighborhood is an area of land. Our natural environment is another neighbor we can choose to care for or to ignore—but ultimately one we depend on for incalculable benefits, as tangible as flood prevention and as beautiful as summer shade.
In our culture, we prize self-sufficiency. After all, depending on others can be inconvenient; it can be messy; it can even give others power over us. But in-dependence taken to an extreme also ends up leading to disconnection. And ultimately, it’s an illusion: we still rely on our neighbors to help maintain our fences, still rely on our soil and plants to soak up rainwater, still grow old and need others’ help no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
Even though the worst damage from the storm was the loss of my prize okra plants, the act of preparing for it did something good for our neighborhood: it brought us out of our houses and into each other’s yards, and it reminded us that we are invested in the health and happiness of a place we all share. I was reminded that God doesn’t just tell us to love our neighbors for theirbenefit; the command to love my neighbor is actually a gift to me,too. As we resume our normal lives, I hope we find more ways to share our time, our time, our resources, and our stories—because a strong community is a gift no storm can take away. , and our stories—because a strong community is a gift no storm can take away.