I rounded the corner and drove up the long driveway shared with two other duplexes. I pulled into my parking spot, the one next to me empty as usual. My headlights shone on trash and recycling cans, prompting me to make a mental note that they needed to be dragged to the end of the driveway to await their fate with the garbage truck the following morning. Unloading my laptop bag, purse, diaper bag, and sweet one-year-old, we walked inside to begin the evening routine.
After the little one was asleep, I bundled up again and headed out to the driveway to tackle the trash cans. My husband’s new job had him away at training Monday through Friday for six months, so the tasks we once shared now fell to me. Some weeks were easier than others, but I was growing weary and winter, with its shorter days, was not helping. I had taken just a few steps outside when I looked and noticed that someone had already taken our cans down. My body relaxed with gratitude and the truth was, I did not even know who to thank.
A year and a half prior, we had moved into this duplex. It wasn’t my favorite place in the long line of homes we had rented. It was my least favorite for more than a few reasons. Honestly, other than it being within our budget, it had one redeeming quality: Our neighbors. I met Meg the first time I looked at the house, noticed the MOPS sticker on her car and thought that could be a good sign. I met Kate shortly after we moved in. She introduced herself, noticed I was pregnant, and went straight to her car to get me maternity clothes that she was planning to donate…at MOPS.
Since that time, these two women had been inserting themselves into this introvert’s life, fiercely loving me and selflessly walking out Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30a) They did this by living out the verses in I Peter:
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:9-11, NIV)
They were there through some dark days early in my postpartum journey; bringing me meals, cheering me on, and taking me out for coffee and cupcakes. When my husband went to training, they did the same. Once a week, my son and I unloaded ourselves from the car and rather than heading to our own door, we went straight to Kate’s for dinner and a welcome dose of fellowship and laughter. I saw them almost every day and I still cherish our impromptu parking lot meet-ups, chats over dinner and watching kids play, and the times we would call one another for last minute childcare help.
If you asked them, my guess is that they weren’t on any sort of “mission” with regards to me. They were just living their lives with those in close proximity to them and meeting needs along the way. Yes, they were ridiculously intentional, but not because I was a project, because I was a friend and neighbor.
What I learned from Kate and Meg is that meeting everyday, “small” needs is actually serving big. In this world where people are vying for social media fame and everyone wants a book deal, it’s easy to buy into the lie that in order to have an impact, our name must be widely known. But Jesus says, “love your neighbor”. It’s true that He also says to preach the Gospel to all nations; I am not trying to minimize that, but at this very moment there are also actual people with actual needs mere feet from where we spend much of our time.
As an introvert, this is difficult, but all it really takes is being willing to insert ourselves into someone’s life. I know this can feel intrusive in our individualistic society, and not everyone will be receptive, but loving others is always worth the risk. It doesn’t need to be flashy. In fact, I love when Peter says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10).
What is already built into your life that you can use to serve your neighbor? Doubling a batch of cookies? A picture drawn by your toddler? The time to pause for a few extra seconds and chat? A cup of coffee or an extra avocado dropped off next door will not make the news, but it may buoy someone’s spirits just enough to keep them swimming through a hard season. And in this age of relationship starvation, it may offer someone a glimpse of our precious Savior, who came to seek and save, love and serve, and meet needs wherever he went. May we let God use our “small” offerings to impact those around us for His Kingdom.