Years ago, one of our pastors encouraged the congregation to select and focus on a Word for the Year. This little discipline has been life-changing for me. Each December, I begin by asking the Lord for a word and then brainstorming ways I can apply this goal throughout the year. For example, the year I chose the word “Word” I read through the Bible in a year and wrote 365 birthday cards or encouragement letters by hand. Some of my other words over the years have included Prayer, Food, Hike, Adventure, and Unplugged. This past year, I chose Neighborhood.
We have lived in this house in this subdivision for 17 years—the longest I have ever lived in one place, yet I could not have told you the names of the people who lived on my own street. Sure, people are busy, mothers work outside the home, I don’t have my kids to make instant connections for me anymore, and I had my hands full already with ministry opportunities, travel, and church responsibilities. But I knew it was time to set aside my excuses and get to know my neighbors.
The first thing I did was to create a map of the 30 houses on our street (plus one cul-de-sac); then I went door-to-door introducing myself and exchanging names and contact information. I worked hard at memorizing names as I prayed daily for each home. Out of this endeavor, we gained four new ladies for a Bible study I’m in. I received a note “You made my day” when I randomly distributed chocolate chip cookies and cards to the ladies on Mother’s Day. I passed out homemade cinnamon rolls in the fall and Christmas candy to a few who were at home when I rang their doorbell. We invited several couples over for dinner. I took a home-cooked meal to a new mom, and exchanged ethnic food all year long with a Kurdish family. I brought goodies and greetings to two new arrivals on the block and said good-bye to another just after getting to know them. Because of my interest in a widow, I was the first person she told when she was diagnosed with cancer. And the most fun of all was inviting all the ladies to a spring and fall tea, hosted by Renate, who, I discovered, has the most spectacular gift of hospitality.
Focusing on one word a year helps to establish a habit. I may not put this much effort into staying in touch with my neighbors in 2018, but I have built a foundation for future connections. It’s a ministry, it’s a blessing, and I know that the more I give, the more I receive.
What word would you choose for 2018 and why? Next year I’ll tell you mine.