So, I learned how to drive in Chicago.
Cue horror movie music.
I like to think that this helps me better to be able to drive in a multitude of chaotic conditions (lets be real), however, I do at times get a bit careless. There was an instance a couple years back, however, where I could not attribute what happened to carelessness. I was backing out of my parking spot in the lot behind my apartment building at the time to meet a friend for coffee, and feel a thump. Oh boy. That never tends to be a good sound. As I looked behind me, there was an enormous black SUV-looking car (confession: I have zero car model knowledge) that had become slightly attached to my back bumper. What! As we both stepped out of our vehicles (thankfully unharmed, neither of us were going very fast), we quickly came to the realization of the “flukeiness” of the situation: we had both backed out of our parking spots at the same time (which were across from one another) without realizing it. We could easily place the blame on both of us, as this was such a random occurrence (seriously, you would have to TRY to do what we did).
Side note: I was actually surprised how calm I remained during the situation, and didn’t let anger overtake me. Typically, I tend to respond in a MUCH different, more intense manner. It did help that the damage was minimal to either one of us, and that no one was harmed. But what shook me more than the actual impact itself was the fact that I had never met this neighbor before this point of literally “running into each other”.
At that time, I had lived in that complex for over 2 years, so I had typically come across many tenants of our large complex. But what stunned me was that it took my neighbor and I literally ramming our cars into each other to have a conversation.
I feel like sometimes I get caught up very much in my own little world: what I have to do, what I don’t have enough of, what there isn’t enough time to do, and the list goes on and on and on. I tend to have a running monologue in my head of lists, obligations, and reminders (let’s all fess up to this, ladies). This sinful side of me creeps in far too often than I’d prefer it to. How easy it is to get encompassed in our own walk of life that we fail to look out at those walking this earthly life with us.
I’ve learned that at times, I am protective with my time to a fault, always claiming there is never enough of it. But if I’m living in a way where I didn’t even allow myself the time and opportunity to get to know those living literally within spitting distance of me, something’s gotta give. Maybe you find yourselves in similar situations, feeling as if there is absolutely NO time to even explore people around you that you don’t have to work with on a day-to-day basis. It took a minor accident for me to slow down and give a person God loves some of my time.
As I came home later that night a couple years back, the gentlemen who was my neighbor and his friend were in the lot that I was pulling into. When I got out of my car, they kindly came over to me and asked if everything with my car was okay. Instead of giving a short answer and scurrying inside to get into my comfy pants and finish the load of paperwork I had for the next day, something pulled me to again slow down and look eyeball to eyeball with another one of God’s invested creations. As the conversation shifted from what we do to the apartment complex ongoings, we learned about each other that we both love to worship and praise God. As we exchanged information about where we went to church, God nudged me into an important lesson that evening.
When we don’t take the time to look around and become “less of ourselves”, we miss out on the opportunities to build connections in Christ with others, and therefore, miss out on the opportunity to aid in building his kingdom here. This hit close to home for me, as a HUGE battle I have been fighting lately (an honestly, for quite some time) is the balance of sustainability and margin in my life. Pastor and speaker Andy Stanley (LOVE) gives a wonderful sermon series on “breathing room”, and creating healthy margin in various areas of life in order to keep at the center what matters the most. Andy states the importance of “ex-squeezing” yourself in order to allow for instances like impromptu conversations, intentional donations, and a prayerful relationship with God. When we don’t allow for “breathing room” to take in the world around us, and invest in the people around us, we are setting ourselves up for a very unfulfilling existence.
My husband and I do not want to be living in a community where we don’t know the names of our neighbors. We have been challenging ourselves to make intentional neighbor connections in our community (having a dog always helps with this!), and are trying to make plans to follow up with a few individuals we have made connections with. Everyone wants to belong to something: give someone the blessing of “going second” through taking some initiative in that :).
How can you create a bit of “breathing room” this week in order to connect with the world around you? It doesn’t necessarily take a car crash (bless), but it looks like I needed a bit of a wake-up call that day. It could mean stopping over to bring that new neighbor moving in a hot dish. It could mean skipping your favorite TV show in order to take a walk and smile at the passer-bys. It could mean making that phone call to say “thank you” to a loved one, just because.
Let’s look outside of ourselves today. Let’s keep each other accountable in this.