Loving Your Neighbor (in the Suburbs)

Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In my subdivision, we just kind of wave. We wave as we come and go – as we drive in and drive out. As we work in the yard. As we get the mail. We wave and we sometimes ask, “How are you?”

The other day, I was walking the dog and saw our Muslim neighbor sweeping out his garage. I said, “Hi there!” He said, “Hello! How are you?” I said, “I’m good! How are you?” He said, “I am good.”

I’m not sure if this is a reason to despair for the American future or a reason for great hope.


We know one next-door neighbor pretty well – he works for the county sheriff. He brought us a homemade banana pudding the week we moved in. Once, at Christmastime, he spelled “JESUS” in green lights on his garage roof. We know a little about his family, his growing up, and his job. Sometimes he feeds our cat when we’re out of town.

Four of the households we wave to are White. Four are Black. Two families are Latino. One is South Asian. (This is Bolingbrook, after all.) We know most of their names and we know a little bit about their lives.

For instance, two of our neighbors grow hot peppers in big buckets along their front walks. One family has a teenage son whose walks the dog in the early hours of the morning, looking resigned. His dad is a part-time pastor, applying to be full-time, and a former landscaper. He built their gazebo and patio himself. Another neighbor’s son walks to the bus in his ROTC uniform and sometimes rides his skateboard, looking cool and nerdy in little eyeglasses and dirt-colored sweatshirts. The neighbors across the street have sent both kids off to college and grow the most beautiful iris in their front yard. Last summer, the family next door had a princess birthday party and their front lawn was full of little girls in poofy, brightly-colored dresses with crowns and wands. In the summer, the dad plays basketball with the neighborhood kids in their driveway. One husband and wife take a walk together early in the morning, almost every day, often while it’s still dark. They gave us a jar of homemade strawberry jam for Christmas one year – they’d picked the strawberries themselves the summer before. It was the best I’ve ever tasted.


Two years ago, the neighbors with the beautiful iris hosted a block party. It was October, but we set up chairs and tables in the middle of the street and had a potluck with our coats on. Someone brought a chiminea and we roasted marshmallows. We heard about where folks had moved from, where they worked, where they went to church, and what TV shows they liked. We had a good time.

A lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  – Luke 10:29

We wave. We say, “I’m good. How are you?” We see each other come and go. Perhaps this is a kind of love, although very different from what I thought Jesus was calling us to. Maybe it’s enough – a reason for hope.


Maybe a kind of grace.



  1. Noticing. Acknowledging. Exchanging well wishes. A smile. A wave. A handshake. A high five. A hug. All outward expressions of loving. Perhaps they are synonymous to me. (Beautiful fall pictures.)

  2. Our neighborhood is 40 years older so the conversations are always about old age and illness. “How’s your Parkinsons?” “I saw the ambulance at Howard’s this morning.” A typical greeting is “I’m up and taking nourishment.”

    We all think Medicare should be for everyone. We are close enough but still busy enough that a wave or one sentence greeting is usually sufficient. But if a tornado struck, as one did a few miles away this week, we’d be sleeping double in the bedrooms that are left and checking each others meds.

  3. Heidi Haverkamp says:

    Love this, Don!


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