Once the weather gets nice,
thereís not a day that goes by
when our street isnít filled
with kids. We live on a cul-de-sac
and our circle is the playground for
the entire neighborhood. It is also the
gathering place for the moms.
Thatís where I met Suzanna. She
lived two doors up from us and had two
little boys, one of whom was the same
age as my son, Alex.
Over the course of the past three
years, we became good friends. We
watched out for each other and our
kids, talked about our lives, our hopes,
In early 2005, we celebrated the
news of my third pregnancy. Suzanna
thought she might be pregnant too
because she was feeling run-down and
sick. Tragically, her symptoms were
caused by leukemia.
The doctors told her if she was
cancer-free in October they would consider
her treatment a success. I was due
in October. We would joke that we were
going to celebrate at Halloween. And
we did: I had my new baby, and
Suzanna was cancer-free. A month later,
the leukemia came back. In March of
this year she passed away.
Throughout Suzannaís illness, our
entire neighborhood kept close tabs
on her and her family. We did what
we could to help and support: We sent
letters and cards, played with the kids,
listened when Suzanna wanted to talk.
We cried together, laughed together,
were there for each other.
It never escaped my mind, though,
that we all could not have been more
different. Suzanna was a member of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, some of us were Catholic, some
were of other Christian denominations.
But none of that mattered. What did
matter was that we were neighbors and,
therefore, a community.
A Foreign Concept?
In Matthew 22:39, Jesus told the Pharisees
that the second greatest commandment
is ďYou shall love your
neighbor as yourself.Ē But sometimes in
our society today, that concept could
not seem further from the truth. Maybe
itís hectic schedules or not knowing
whoís living on your street, but people
donít seem to connect with their neighbors
the way they once did.
One of the families in our neighborhood
moved in not long after they
had built a new house in another
neighborhood. The people in that
neighborhood, the wife said, never
talked to each other. The kids never played outside. So her family decided to
seek out a friendlier neighborhood.
And if we canít connect on a daily
basis with the people living on either
side of us, in the same complex or on
our street, then how can we begin to
connect with members of our community,
parish, city, country or even
If we can reach out to neighbors who
are literally in our own backyards, then
maybe we can learn to love our neighbors
on a larger scale.
Here are some suggestions for ways
to put Jesusí commandment into
• Work to foster community among
your actual neighbors. For instance,
this spring, I planned an Easter egg
hunt for all the kids in our neighborhood.
It was a nice opportunity for the
parents and kids to get together. We
are discussing plans for a block party
• Seek out groups with whom you
have things in common. For instance,
join a group at your parish or a group
involving a hobby you have, such as
gardening, car repairs or scrapbooking.
A friend of mine participates in activities
planned by her condo association,
such as book discussions, once-a-month
dinners at local restaurants or foreign-language
• Make yourself known. By getting
out and about in your neighborhood,
you can meet a lot of people. I met my
neighbor Esther because she walks her
dog every day. Working in your front
yard and taking a walk in your neighborhood
are also easy ways to meet
• Celebrate those things that you
donít have in common and use them as
teaching moments. Suzanna and I were
of different faiths, but we didnít let
that impede our friendship. We used
our differences as a way to learn more
about each other and our faiths.
• Think outside your neighborhood.
I recently returned from a trip to New
Orleans. What I saw down thereóeight
months after Hurricane Katrina hitówas deeply disturbing. It occurred to
me that there are many situations
throughout the world where people
need help. Those people, too, are my
Next Month: Living My Vows