"Hey, someone just broke into your garage and took your bike."
That is not the first sentence we hoped to hear when we saw that our neighbor was calling Joe's phone. But those were the first words out of his mouth. And, the next thing he said reminded us of how amazing our neighborhood is.
It's pretty rare that any of our neighbors will actually call each other on the phone. There just isn't usually a need for it. We see each other almost every day as it is, so we don't really need to try to get ahold of each other.
Every now and then there's a group text asking who wants to meet up outside. But, even that is usually deemed unnecessary when we look out the window and see people already sharing a bottle of wine.
So, when the caller ID said it was our neighbor, and we were close to an hour away from home, we had a feeling it wasn't great news.
But, thankfully, he followed his first sentence up quickly to let us know the bike was safely resting in our garage again.
To set the stage for you, we live in an older house with a detached garage. Our house faces the street, but the garage is at the back of the property facing an alley. And the garage door is one of those old single-panel wood doors.
This happened on a weekday that Joe had just happened to take off from work for a little family day. So, we were gone pretty much all day.
Fortunately for us, our neighbor had decided to go to work that day, and it was on his way home that he noticed something wasn't right.
As he rode his bike down the alley to his garage, he noticed a bike (Joe's bike) laying in the alley. He also saw that our garage door had been pried open on one side, and he could hear noise coming from inside the garage.
So, rather than carry on as if nothing was wrong or call the police (who would have taken at least 30 minutes to get there), he decided to wait and see who came out.
When a man who had clearly not showered in a long time came crawling out of the garage and walking toward the bike, our neighbor took action.
"Hey, that's not your bike!"
"Yes it is." (as he picks up the bike to sit on it)
"No, that's not your bike."
"Yes it is." (now getting ready to ride away)
"No! It's not! Now get off the bike!" (at this point our neighbor was yelling as he physically prevented this man from his getaway by holding onto the seat of the bike)
After realizing this neighbor wasn't about to let him get away with our bike, the man got off the bike. He walked over to a very beat up bike laying a few feet away and pedaled away...defeated.
One of many events
This is one of the most memorable events of neighbors protecting each other for us. But there have been plenty of times when similar things happened.
- A man took it upon himself to walk into our backyard and help himself to a couple grocery bags full of oranges from our tree...until our neighbor confronted him. The man said he had permission, but he took off as soon as our neighbor said he was going to ask us if that was true.
- Our neighbors had a side yard that was too strong of a temptation for people looking for things to take possession of. Though, they were rarely able to do so without at least one neighbor interrupting their hunt by telling them to leave. (a gate has since been installed to prevent future visits)
- When a couple guys decided to set up camp on our block with their gigantic bong and a few items that we assumed were stolen while kids rode up and down the street on bikes and scooters, Joe joined another neighbor to politely ask them to move the party elsewhere. They agreed for the sake of the kids. Even asked if we wanted their bong!
It's pretty rare that anything happens on our block without somebody noticing and taking action on behalf of the other neighbors.
This is what happens when a community actually cares about each other
This neighborhood is our family. And, as we have said before, we even think of it as our church. Everyone here looks out for each other. If someone is in need, there is always someone around who can help out.
We trust each other in ways we've never experienced in any other group of people. We know each other so intimately that there is no fear of rejection or judgment. And, we trust each other with our most valued possessions. Our neighbor locked herself out of her house the other day, and all she had to do was walk to our house and ask for the spare key.
When the members of a community truly love each other like Christ tells us to love each other, people can drop their guard, and they can trust others in the community.
What would it take for your neighborhood to become a community like this? And, what could you do to start the process? If you don't know your neighbors very well yet, then maybe you just need to get to know them a little better. Throw a block party, and spend some quality time with the people on your block. Or, maybe you just need to find an excuse to get outside a little more.
It's up to you to decide what will work best. But, figure out what is needed in your neighborhood, and take the first step. Trust us. It will be one of the best decisions you make.