On Zombie Flamingoes: Why I Love My Neighborhood

On my way home from school drop-off today, I’m taken aback again by gratitude. I’m thankful for SO many things, but every day as I walk home, I feel especially thankful for our neighborhood. Which brings me to the first reason I love it: it’s completely walkable. I walk our oldest to her school, and then my little and I meander on over to her preschool, whose start time is just after. Honestly, I can’t even believe that this is my life--I pinch myself often. Then I mosey on back to our house to enjoy a couple hours of silence while I work or read or write, or go for a jog (which lasts usually about 10 minutes. I use the word “jog” very generously). On our stroll to the library a couple months ago, Willa and I heard the summer drone of landscaping companies: leaf blowers and commercial mowers pulling up and spreading out to do their jobs like worker ants in a colony. We live in a neighborhood where these companies can be seen everywhere on a warm day, caring for the lawns of houses that are vacant during the working hours. Actually, it would be much more accurate to say we live adjacent to this type of neighborhood. In midtown, it sort of all bleeds together.

Our particular block is a hodgepodge of residents: some renters, some homeowners, a journalist, a retired teacher, a pastor, and a few I don’t know…One of our neighbors has an impressive garden in his backyard, complete with ducks roaming around that we hear quacking when our windows are open. “What’s that sound?” people will sometimes ask. “Oh, you know, our neighbors’ ducks.” Our next door neighbor hires out his yard work, and one neighbor at the end of the block doesn’t mow, nor does he pay someone else to. They prefer to live in a jungle, I guess. And it’s the type of block where no one complains about that sort of thing. I like that. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s cookie-cutter living. Let’s not pretend we all came out of an assembly line, where some uncreative, bored-to-tears deity made a stock model and then shoved us all in stock-model houses. That gives me a Stepford-Wives-creepy feeling.

I love that when I walk my daughter home from school I’m with families of literally EVERY variety: black, white, hispanic, asian. I see Nikes and Havaianas, I see purple hair and I see hijab, I see Lulemon and I see lungyis, and it makes for a colorful, beautiful afternoon. It reminds me of the vast, unsearchable creativity of our God, and the beautiful tapestry of people I know we will see at his banquet table. I fully expect that we will all be utterly shocked at the scandalous diversity in Heaven someday. And not just of colors, races, and ethnicities. I think we’ll be shocked at all the people we meet whom we thought were wrong. I’m talking me, included. We’ll all be there only by the lavish grace of God, which is the most beautiful thing in the universe.

When I think back to this winter, when we didn’t have a clue where we’d live or where our kids would go to school, I am overcome. I prayed so fervently that God would lead us to the right place, that he would make it very clear where to live, what to do about the girls’ education, and I knew those things were connected. I prayed two prayers regarding our home when we were house shopping:

1.) God, please give us a home that will be a soft place to land for our family and for others, a haven to welcome others and show your love.

2.) God, lead us to the neighbors we need and the neighbors who need us.

I can tell you he’s answered those ABUNDANTLY. I wouldn’t say that ANY of our neighbors need us, but I will say that being a part of community where people know each other and can lean on each other feels so good. Our rental house was definitely God’s provision, and it was a great blessing, but our neighborhood there did NOT feel like a community at all.

In contrast, I have neighbors now who leave dessert on my front porch, who offer to babysit, who bring us homegrown chard, who get out their own equipment and help my husband trim our tree, unsolicited. We are so incredibly blessed. I pray I never take this for granted.

If all that were not enough, here are a few other reasons I adore living where I do:

Oh, yes, and let’s not forget this. I saved the best for last. On my walk home today, I saw this in a neighbor’s yard:


Then, just two doors down from that, I saw this:


Obviously after encountering this, I am just overcome with love for where I live. I’m not sure I even need to explain this. Just…obviously. Fantastic.