Be Where You Are

Hey, my name is Andy. My wife, Kristel and I lead a Life Group at Awaken. We have two kiddos and we love the Boundary Waters.

It sounds too simple, to be where you are. But I’m convinced that is what we are asked to do. It makes sense.

I’m planning to put a rather large hole in my house – a doorway to be more precise. We’re claiming half of the front porch that we’ve used very little up until now. It will become part of our finished home. This is the latest installment in a series of home improvement projects we’ve tackled over the years. When the weather turns, we have plans for projects outside.

The outside projects are my favorites. I’ve found that when you toil out in the open, folks notice. They comment. And most of the time, the comments are encouraging.  But not all of the time. Like Budweiser guy. As I built a retaining wall in the spring of 2009 (the first summer after the infamous economic downturn), Budweiser guy sauntered from the liquor store to the bus stop – a route that invited some interesting foot traffic past our home.

Budweiser guy barely broke his slow, steady stride as he glanced over at me and volunteered some advice: “It doesn’t seem very smart to be investing in your house right now.” I politely suggested that I thought my retaining wall may yield a better return on investment than his 30-pack of Budweiser. (I know, it was a little sharp. I promise that I delivered my response playfully, and with a smile.)  He gave a shrug and continued to the bus stop.

This type of interaction is the exception. Like I said, most of the comments are encouraging. Some even start a conversation that goes beyond the project at hand. Like with Alice who’s lived in the neighborhood for decades. She tells me often that it’s so great to see someone taking care of their home. Alice walks by often. (And she’s always wearing shorts – even in the winter!) Usually our interaction is a friendly, but brief “hello.” But there have been a handful occasions that Alice and I have visited for thirty minutes at a time.

I could tell scores of stories about the folks I’ve met outside on the street next to my house, but I’ll spare you and get to my point. Each of us encounters all sorts of people in our day-to-day. All different kinds. And I’m growing more and more convinced that these very folks, the ones you run into naturally, are worth pouring into a bit.

Well, “pouring into” is probably overstating it. It makes the “pourer” sound like a bit of a hero. That’s not what I mean. If you open the door to conversation, to some kind of relationship, sometimes you end up poured into. Like with Mike & Kathy. They live next door. We lived four or five winter months in our home before even meeting them. Since then we have been encouraged, supported, poured into in ways that cannot be described in the likes of a brief blog post. They are like family who live next door. It sounds cliché, but I really mean it. What a gift!

Photo Credit: Theron HumphreyThis is a key feature of our life groups at Awaken. Since we arrange these groups with geography as a primary consideration, life groups are made up of neighbors. Ideally, we don’t really need to leave the neighborhood to serve. We don’t need to manufacture opportunities. We can just open up our eyes. See who’s already there in front of us.  It makes so much sense.

Who is around you? Who do you see each day? Neighbors? Co-workers? Someone who walks their dog by your house each day? Strike up a conversation. Or at least make eye contact and offer a genuine hello. I suppose you were going to eat dinner tonight anyway.  Maybe your neighbor will join you. Yeah, there is some risk. But there is potential for great, meaningful reward, too. Try it out – see what happens. I dare you.

This is the foundation for true relationship. I am convinced; there is nothing more meaningful, more genuine than being where you are.