Newcomers (by Hannah Alexander)

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This sweet little mule deer made the hassles of the weekend all better.

You know how there are times in your week, your month, your year, when nothing seems to go right, and no matter how fast and hard you scramble, you can’t stop things from tumbling into a mess at your feet? Figuratively speaking, of course.

This past weekend was like that. We awakened Saturday morning to a great chill. Wyoming is not a state where you want to mess around with the cold. The lowest elevation in the state, I believe, is more than 3100 feet. Our town is over 6700 feet. We’re so much farther north than the warmer, more humid climate of Southern Missouri where we lived for decades.

Our furnace had kicked off. It was icy cold in the house. I had appointments all day, so Mel, on one of his final days off before a marathon week of multiple 24-hour shifts, had to spend the day trying to find someone who would make a weekend call. He didn’t find anyone. So he spent the rest of that day rounding up space heaters. Our pastor was kind enough to loan us several, as well as invite us to spend the weekend with them in their home. Our wonderful neighbor to the west offered the same. They were the only ones we had told. I was blown away by the generosity.

The first space heater we plugged in kicked a breaker and plunged our living room–complete with internet, TV, and phone–into darkness. We did fine over the weekend by using space heaters in other parts of the house. We spent yesterday afternoon upstairs in the bonus room–heat rises. Amazingly, I got too hot.

You know what? I was raised in the country. I’ve never lived in a big city, only small towns as an adult. I’m accustomed to the kindness one finds in community. We folks in rural areas don’t have to search too hard to find that kindness. City folks can build their own communities. Churches are communities. Bible study groups are communities. Neighbors can be the same.

I was touched and humbled when our neighbors and our pastor and wife kept in touch to make sure we were okay, were warm enough. I’ve never lived in such a dangerous winter environment before, and like a hundred years ago, when there might have been a serious threat to life or limb (freezing to death or frostbite), people band together to support one another, to come to one another’s aid.

So today, after I got the furnace man and the electrician here, all was back running again. Then my neighbor called me to tell me to look out our front door. Sure enough, a baby like the one you see above, only a few months older now without his spots, was lying on my welcome mat taking a snooze.

The rest of the day I’ve felt so blessed by the comfort of newly formed friendships and wonderful neighbors. We haven’t even lived here a year, and yet this is how good people behave when strangers move into town.

Do you have your community in place? Even if you’ve just moved to a new place, may I suggest you get to know your neighbors? A good friend of mine, who is a wonderful novelist, moved to a new town a few years ago. She and her husband didn’t wait for neighbors to reach out, but they invited one household at a time to their home for a meal. In doing so, they created a great community.

I never had the courage to do that. Shyness makes life very difficult at times, but I’ve met and talked to neighbors when they were out and about. Mel and I have attached ourselves to a tiny house church where members grow close out of necessity. I’ve joined a water aerobics class–invited by a neighbor. Each time I go to a place where I meet new people, I try to learn names and even write them down with descriptions. I ask questions and begin awkward conversations. I’ve joined a group of women for Bible study, and I’ve even invited others. Let me tell you, if I can do this, pretty much anyone can. I’m a hermit’s hermit.

Moving to a new place might have made me more courageous. Maybe not. Maybe desperation for friendship drove me to it, but Mel and I seem to be developing a community around us. We all need good friends and neighbors, no matter where we find them. If you live in a strange place and find the task of generating a community for yourself, just take it one step at a time. Take that first step. Let people know you’re alive and that you’re interested in them. You might be surprised by the response.

Go out and make yourself a community!


About alexanderhodde

We love to hike, we love to read, and we love to write. We are active in a small house church that recently moved into a building that was once a parts store, so life is fun and exciting for us.
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