living in a small town is convenient. the town i grew up in was more rural-residential-landspace than a town. haines is, for me, similar to a city.

bear with me now (no, there is not a bear with me now).

i can walk everywhere. or ride my bike. all i need is either available a few blocks away or i can mail-order it in and pick it up at the post office. and, unlike my hometown, everyone goes to the post office for mail. anyone who has ever lived with me in some capacity should remember how much i love to get the mail. check the mail. receive the mail. even junk. dump. sort. open. read. buy stamps. PACKAGE SLIPS! is there a more wondrously exciting piece of paper on the planet? NO!

where was i?

small town = convenience.

what was i getting at?

small town = no privacy. in many ways.

i’m used to the small community everyone-knows-everyone-else’s-business thing. this is literal, physical, visual, spatial INVASION.

i am exposed.

my house is two blocks east of main street. which is the main street. and ferry traffic must pass my front door.

consequences?

i mow the lawn all greasy and dusty.

they see me.

i bend over the front flower box to weed.

passing vehicles stare at my behind (which is unavoidably not behind me or any privacy creating barrier).

i innocently walk towards the fence to pick rhubarb.

psycho motel-neighbor dog barks at me.

i lay out in the yard to read in the sun.

crazy truck driver zooms through our “private” driveway to cut into the alley.

things that i would much prefer to do in the privacy of my own yard, behind big trees and rock walls and buildings are exposed for the viewing and mockery of tourists and townies alike.

there are pros, however.

if people see me, i see them. this means good people watching opportunities as well as good passerby conversations (eavesdropped upon or participated in).

i am experiencing the true sense of what it means to be someone’s neighbor like never before. not the motel side, the other side. my neighbors have become the good stereotype of what neighbors are. i see them daily. i was instantly and simultaneously close and distant to them. they brought me cookies on my birthday. i brought dessert bread on theirs. they can see in my dining room window. i can hear through my bedroom window. my guests visit their store. they tell people walking by that the inn is the “best place to stay in town” (which is TRUE, no bias).

there is not much besides proximity on this earth that has brought us together. but we do not let that be insignificant or cause for neglect. so often us christians are reminded that “loving your neighbor” is not going to be easy. even your “enemy” is your “neighbor” and thus deserving of your love. this comes as a legitimate reaction to the easy interpretation in which friends and loved ones hold the privileges of the title “neighbor”. but perhaps this “love your neighbor” has been absorbed into and conflated with “love your enemies.” i think we’ve simply forgotten that there are people in this world, the largest category actually, who are neither friends or enemies, but simply “neighbors.” some are difficult, potential enemies. others are potential friends. but most will never become either to us. they will remain, simply, neighbors. by virtue of temporal, geographical, narrative, social, economic, cultural, religious, educational, recreational or occupational placement, they are here with us. they share this time, this space, this earth, with me. and loving them is most difficult because they are so easy to neglect. my attentions are so constantly spent on my enemies, my friends and myself that my neighbors move from the sidelines to the scenery. neighbors are not defined in terms of ourselves. there is nothing specific tying my neighbors to me. by working to remain aware of and loving towards our neighbors we are forced to live in terms of those whose lives may never directly impact our own in any significant ways, by acknowledging the validity of their lives coexisting with ours.

when contemplating the sustainability of our planet, a thought-line often offered is “what will the world be like for your grandchildren?” the struggle is to be equally motivated by the question: “what will the world be like for the grandchildren of people you have never and will never meet?”

actual neighbors are excellent tools for learning how to give of one’s life and love to those who may have no “legitimate” claim to them.

and not only are we to love our neighbors, but to love them “as ourselves.” that brings the challenge to levels i can barely imagine.

how’s that for a tangent?

conclusion: as self-conscious as my physical exposure makes me feel, i hope that it leads me to feel dissatisfied with the current state of my heart’s exposure.

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