Neighboring: don’t underestimate our ‘Friends of the Road’

What free gift could you give a friend or neighbor this week?

Friendship is a broad word that, when you break it down, describes the intentional actions of giving and receiving with another human being for mutual benefit. It occurs when, ideally, people equally invest in one another.

What word or gift could you give a friend this Valentine's Day?

Sometimes I think this Seattle Freeze comes from the fact that we live in a time when people move pretty frequently and the thought of ‘investing’ in neighbors feels potentially ‘emptying’ rather than ‘fueling’. I grew up in a small town (Longview, WA) and lived in the same house my entire life from birth to when I left for college. My parents owned only one home during their lives. Given that paradigm, why wouldn’t my family get to know and have meaningful friendships with our neighbors?

Today, however, most of us feel uniquely lucky if we are able to sustain the same job in the same community for the duration of our children’s Wonder Bread years. It’s indeed unusual, often causing us to think: “why get to know my neighbors? They’re just going to move anyway.”

Well, here’s why: We need our Friends of the Road

In their book “Relationships” Seattle Pacific University professors Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott unpack the concept of the value of having both Friends of the Heart and Friends of the Road.

Friends of the Heart are those fewer yet highly cherished people who are here to stay. You may not see one of them for years, but when you do you easily pick up right where you left off. You’ve walked through the best and worst events of your lives together. They’ve become interwoven into the fabric of your life. Think about it: names of a few individuals have just immediately come to mind, haven’t they?

Friends of the Road, however, are those people whom you know/knew for a few fantastic years or a brief season. You shared a significant event or time in your lives together. But then life circumstances moved you apart and, well, that pretty much ended the friendship. When you reflect on these people, a smile still comes to your face, but in more of a nostalgic way, not in a way that moves you to pick up the phone and reconnect.

It’s true that the vast majority of people we will know as our neighbors will most likely fall under the ‘Friends of the Road’ category. We will know them for only a limited season of time. Yet, according to the Parrotts, these relationships are no less important to our lives than those life-long friends:

‘Some friendships are meant to be transitory. Like cowboys who ride herd together for miles, sharing both dusty perils and round-the-campfire coffee, we all have friendships that come to their natural end. Not because of discontent or lack of interest. Simply because the road has run out.

Understand, these are not failed friendships. Not at all. They are friendships of the road, equally intense, equally necessary, equally worth cultivating and treasuring as the long-lasting versions. We couldn’t survive without them. They get us through a particular stretch of road, and for that we can be grateful.’

Isn’t that true of many of our friendships from high school? College? Don’t most of us have a former co-worker who became a great confident during a particularly toxic season at work or in our lives?  Did we hesitate to invest in them?  Do we feel that time spent with them was a waste? No.

Then why not move out the front door and risk connecting with our neighbors? We’re not talking about ‘shopping for best friends.’ We’re talking about INCLUDING and INVITING our neighbors along for the journey on our Road, and being willing to join theirs, if even only for a short season.

Which brings me back to my neighboring goals via Eat Play Thaw. While several houses within eyesight on my street have turned over in the past 5 or so years, and most likely several more in the coming 5, I am finding a great value in getting to know and investing time in these Friends of the Road.

  • Knowing them provides social fun as we enjoy books & barbecues together, host baby showers and watch one another’s children, and proudly fly our 12th Man banners.
  • Knowing them provides community investment opportunities as we learn of each other’s volunteer activities that peak our interest and we decide to join in.
  • Knowing them provides security as they’re watching my home and I’m watching theirs for any unusual activity, particularly around vacation times.
  • Knowing them gives me encouragement as being connected to them gives me an increased sense of belonging.

What gift of an encouraging word could you give this week via card, in person, phone call, or e-card (it’s free!) to a Friend of the Heart or a Friend of the Road?

  • A lifelong friend you no longer live near but find yourself missing them more often than reaching out to them.
  • A co-worker you’ve recently gotten to know via a project and you have great appreciation for what they brought to the table.
  • A neighbor you used to live by, but a job or other relocation moved you/your families apart.
  • A new neighbor.

Is there a greater gift than friendship?

Valentine Hearts

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