Summer in the Burbs
A favorite comedy of mine is a 1989 movie starring Tom Hanks—The Burbs. It’s the story of a group of paranoid, over-zealous husbands living on a cul-de-sac who are convinced that the creepy new neighbors are up to something nefarious in their basement. These concerned men will stop at nothing to prove their case resulting in more than a little property damage.
Having lived in a suburb most of my life, I can both identify and enjoy the over-the-top depiction of middle-class suburban life. Unlike the movie depiction however, there are many people who can live in their suburban homes and even after 30 years, never really get to know those who live on the same street.
The older neighborhoods were made for walking. Churches, grocery stores, restaurants, and other places of business were located within walking distance of local neighborhoods. Side-walks insured that these establishments could be accessed with ease. Moreover, walking often provided opportunities to say hello to passer-bys and others sitting on their front porch.
Unlike older neighborhoods, suburbs are built with cars in mind. Very few public establishments are built within walking distance. On the one hand, this makes many suburbs quiet and safe. On the other hand, driving everywhere, often parking at home in a closed garage, diminishes opportunities for social interaction.
Other inventions like televisions, back-yard patios, and air conditioning have also contributed to suburban isolation. As most suburbanites are now able to own or rent just about any tool we need, it is rare that we borrow these items from a neighbor. One unhappy result is that we have become more self- contained than is good for us. We rely on our neighbors less if at all, and we feel no obligation toward them either.
For many, the warm weather of summer brings a change in schedule. Kids are home from school. Families take time for vacations. Some regular activities like small group fellowships take a hiatus during the summer.
I encourage you this summer to take time to get to know or reengage with some of those individuals or families with whom you have been meaning to get together. Summer is a great time for practicing hospitality with no other agenda than to enjoy good company.
To that end, be intentional. Turn off the TV! Consider how you can be a blessing to someone near you. Start by praying for them by name. Think about whom you might share coffee or a barbecue with. Get it on the calendar. Extend the invitation. A good goal might be once a month. Make your summer count.
Grace and Peace,