Good Neighbors

Weaving our potential to make this place more beautiful together

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, we might as well say
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

Fred Rogers

Since having the pleasure of seeing the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I wanted to haunt your hearts with this classic tune. I figure if we are all silently chanting this mantra, while living in this incredible community, there is hope. 

Being a good neighbor begins with honoring our selves, our souls and minds with the same tender care we would for our birds. Setting feeders out in the winter, extra tending to our wells that may feel depleted in the longer darkness. Stoking the fire with gentle cups of tea, permission to rest and reboot. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do feel some shapeshifting could always come in handy when humans are involved. During these changing times, gatekeepers and lighthouse lighters are needed more than ever, acting as safe havens for our fast and furious culture. Allies and resting posts where all are welcome to come as you are and leave with your bucket filled. 

What better time to attempt to evolve a bit as we begin to hunker down and spiral inward as we approach the winter solstice and holidays. This season casts a bit of a shadow and inspires introspection during one of the most chaotic and festive times of the year. Our natural circadian rhythms are challenged with social demands as we attempt to fill others’ buckets and lists, time and commitments. The season is full of hosting and being hosted, mingling and entertaining. 

It is just as dazzling as it is overwhelming. Some find these holidays exhausting, triggering, and painful. Especially if there has been a loss of a loved one or significant life change. The holidays are markers, memory makers, and accompany traditions. They also hold the opportunity to recreate new ones. 

A simple tradition we enjoy sharing around our family table is a gratitude bowl. This has helped us to share our thanks (not just at Thanksgiving dinner) with each other and our foods. Especially recognizing the foods on our plates, what it took to bring them here, and who was responsible for harvesting the veggies, butchering the meat, and especially the animal that was sacrificed. 

We begin by lighting a candle. Passing an empty bowl around we take turns by placing one chosen item into the bowl:

“I’m going to place a sweet potato in the bowl this evening. It reminds me of winter and of hibernation under the sweet soil of the Earth, and how She takes care of us in so many ways. I am grateful we live in such a beautiful land where we can witness the river and fox and deer and fruit growing on trees. I am grateful we can eat these nourishing foods together at this beautifully crafted table your dad made.”

“I’m placing bone broth in the bowl. It’s salty and tastes like my tears” if that is what is called for. Just showing up, however and whatever that looks like, is brave enough. 

This practice is a simple way to check in and offer thanks and recognition for simple things we can so easily overlook. 

As the holidays are fast approaching, our family was trying to find other simple gestures that may alter someones heartbeat and experience. Some that came to mind were:

    • Leaving some cookies or a thank you note for the garbage collectors
    • Donating some cozy comforts of home to a local shelter or neighbor in need
    • Doubling a recipe and delivering some food to a friend who may need a night off from cooking or could use a homemade meal
    • Buying coffee for the customer behind you
    • Asking a stranger to share stories and a table with you for a meal
    • Hosting your neighbors kids and helping them make a card or gift for their parents as a surprise
    • Taking a neighbors dog for a walk
    • Inviting a new neighbor over for tea
    • Share/split Costco toilet paper or large amounts of things with your neighbors
    • Donate old stuffies and blankets to the Humane Society
    • Drop off cards to the Senior Center or a local nursing home
    • Create little gift bags for homeless people with signs. Some things to consider placing in them (gloves/mittens, tissues, granola bars, toothpaste, toothbrush, tea bags, socks)
    • Walking through the cemetery or labrynth, see if you can offer a creative natural offering or sculpture of stones, leaves and sticks to the Earth, decorate a tree in nature. It is a simple gesture of gratitude to offer another being who may walk that path. 
    • If you know someone who has lost a loved one this past year, know this time will be tender. If time allows, have coffee, bake and share a loaf of bread or go for a walk together. Collage the outside of a tall glass candle from the dollar store they can light whenever their hearts feel dim.

Something that always keeps me inspired is service. Regardless of who you are or were or are trying to become, a little tends to go a long way. I would love to defrost our rose colored lenses to help see the unseen, and recognize the real elves and magic makers who rarely get noticed or recognized for their contributions toward our society. 

Thankfully, we live in a land where we are not alone, and can lean to the Left or Right and be held in good company. Company nonetheless. 

One of my favorite poems comes to mind by Maggie Smith. 

The work, Smith says, sprung from a mother’s worry about what’s hard and unfair in the world, “and yet wanting it to be a good place for my kids to live in.”

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Maggie Smith, “Good Bones” from Waxwing
Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith.

This desire is something I feel deeply in my bones. I believe we all do. To create a safe and just culture. One that leaves a mark rather than a scar to claim our ways and efforts during this precious time we are here. An Excalibur to stake our promise to this Land, Each Other and Ourselves toward doing the GOOD WORK for future generations and species.

Wishing you all blessings of peace and hope as we shed the skin of 2019, and welcome the possibilities of 2020. May you feel hope and peace, gratitude, and inspiration as we weave our potential in making this place more beautiful together.