There is a Black Lives Matter flag and a rainbow flag flying in front of my house.
I have a multilingual, transracial, multicultural, queer household. As a foster parent, I have the great gift of welcoming and learning from many different backgrounds. My wife and I are by no means perfect in our ability to care for and include the many intersectional identities of our children. But we’re growing and doing everything we can to communicate to our children that their entire identity is welcome and has a home in our house. The outward, public display that the flags create is a way of saying, “We see you. We are with you. You are not alone.”
So, when our 87-year-old neighbor Mary came over and said, “I want to talk to you about those flags,” my hackles were up. I was ready to spring on the defensive and explain why each identity represented in those flags was vital and precious and worth representing. “They keep getting blown off of those hooks.” (We were using some Command Hooks to hang them, and when it was exceptionally windy or rainy, one side of the flag would often get blown off of the hook.) I was aware of this and just waiting for the next thing she would say so that I could let loose.
Imagine my surprise when she presented me with eye-hooks and carabiners.
“They fall down, and I can’t see them well. I brought you these so that your flags can stay up and I can see them.”
It turns out my defenses, stereotyping, and ageism are problematic. Mary was teaching a master class on the Sacred Act of Neighboring.
The Sacred Act of Neighboring is about seeing your neighbors and intentionally reaching out. Mary didn’t just notice that the flags were falling – she brought the tools to fix it! And I’m pretty sure she’d have gotten up there and put those new hooks up herself if her doctor hadn’t forbidden her from getting up on a ladder. Flourishing neighborhoods have a strong foundation of sustained connections, radical compassion, and people courageous enough to take meaningful risks. It is such a gift to have Mary embodying these things for my family and me.
Now my flags fly proudly without falling—because Mary made it happen.
The Sacred Act of Neighboring happens one person, one story, one neighborhood at a time.
May we all learn from Mary.
Sam Blewis Pastor to the Neighborhood