Everyday we pass through our neighbourhoods: rows of homes and vehicles, the same ones as yesterday, they roll by and lull us into a sense that there is nothing new to see here. Move along. Just buildings, strangers, and another set of traffic lights. We get home, eat, and turn to work or some diversion from our work. Then we do it again the next day.
What if I said that there is more, so much more, than we see. What if there was a way to imagine these streets differently? What if your neighbourhood held a key to your very sense of purpose, hope, and joy?
There is a growing longing for a renewed vision for our neighbourhoods. Not just to ‘fix’ our neighbourhoods and patch up some bumpy street. Not to create something more flashy. It is deeper and richer than a program or project. This growing interest in our neighbourhoods is about discovering, engaging, and paying attention in a way that actually gives new direction to our lives. Neighbourists are people who are taking another look at the places where they live and are discovering something fascinating and even beautiful. They are wondering if perhaps there is an unseen world of life and meaning unfolding right where they live. What if the community of people within walking distance of our homes hold a priceless surprise? What if life is a journey into our neighbourhoods?
Discovering my community happened in the most unlikely way. It happened while I was sitting in front of my beehive. I became a beekeeper after years of studying and my mind was tired. My wife and I are avid gardeners and I had the crazy idea to get into beekeeping. It was a kind of therapy, I suppose. What I did not know is that beekeeping would change something very fundamental about who I am and how I see my world. I thought beekeeping was about caring for some insects, but these insects were showing me so much more. Everyday these bees would fly about my neighbourhood, almost unseen, pollinating flower after flower, making my town beautiful. They were small, active, graceful, and made a bigger change to my neighbourhood than any person I knew. I made a discovery while sitting beside my beehive that changed not only how I see my role in my community, but how I love my neighbours.
The journey into the neighbourhood often begins as a journey of the heart. It is a journey of faith, of trust, of wondering, and hoping. We live in a transactional world where goods and services are exchanged, but neighbourhoods are relational. You can buy a house and pay taxes, but unless you step into your neighbourhood and actually love those around you, you will never truly know others or be known by them. Neighbourhoods call out from us a way of life that is attentive, grateful, loving, and gracious. Your neighbourhood may feel like the mere daily backdrop of your routine, or it might just be one big invitation to a new way of life.
This column, Into the Neighbourhood is a gentle unfolding story, a vision really, of how we move from isolation to community, from cynicism to kindness, and from fear to friendship. It is my deepest hope and prayer that you would be inspired to take the next step into your own neighbourhood. Because your neighbourhood is beautiful and amazing, and so are you.
Great News! Preston’s new book “The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood” is now available on Amazon!