Everyday we pass through our neighborhoods: rows of homes and vehicles, the same ones as yesterday. they roll by and lull us into a sense that there is nothing new to see here. Move along. Just buildings, strangers and another set of traffic lights. We get home, eat and turn to work or some diversion from our work. Then we do it again the next day.
What if I said that there is more, so much more, than we see? What if there was a way to imagine these streets differently? What if your neighborhood held a key to your very sense of purpose, hope and joy?
There is a growing longing for a renewed vision for our neighborhoods. Not just to “fix” our neighborhoods and patch up some bumpy street. Not to create something more flashy. It is deeper and richer than a program or project. This growing interest in our neighborhoods is about discovering, engaging and paying attention in a way that actually gives new direction to our lives.
Neighborists are people who are taking another look at the places where they live and are discovering something fascinating and even beautiful. They are wondering if perhaps there is an unseen world of life and meaning unfolding right where they live. What if the community of people within walking distance of our homes hold a priceless surprise? What if life is a journey into our neighborhoods?
What if the good life is a long journey across a narrow street?
Discovering my community happened in the most unlikely way. It happened while I was sitting in front of my beehive.
I became a beekeeper after years of studying and my mind was tired. My wife and I are avid gardeners and I had the crazy idea to get into beekeeping. It was a kind of therapy, I suppose. What I did not know is that beekeeping would change something very fundamental about who I am and how I see my world. I thought beekeeping was about caring for some insects, but these insects were showing me so much more. Everyday these bees would fly about my neighborhood, almost unseen, pollinating flower after flower, making my town beautiful. They were small, active, graceful and made a bigger change to my neighborhood than any person I knew. I made a discovery while sitting beside my beehive that changed not only how I see my role in my community, but how I love my neighbors.
The journey into the neighborhood often begins as a journey of the heart. It is a journey of faith, of trust, of wondering and hoping. We live in a transactional world where goods and services are exchanged. But neighborhoods are relational. You can buy a house and pay taxes, but unless you step into your neighborhood and actually love those around you, you will never truly know others or be known by them. Neighborhoods call out from us a way of life that is attentive, grateful, loving and gracious. Your neighborhood may feel like the mere daily backdrop of your routine..but what if it was actually one big invitation to a new way of life?
My writing is a gentle unfolding story, a vision really, of how we move from isolation to community, from cynicism to kindness, and from fear to friendship. If this is the start of your journey into your own neighborhood, welcome. If you have already stepped out your front door, may you be encouraged. It is my deepest hope that you would be inspired to take the next step into your own neighborhood. Because your neighborhood is beautiful and amazing, and so are you.
About the Author
Dr. Preston Pouteaux is a beekeeper, neighbourhood enthusiast and pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church. He is an engaging speaker, writer, and curator of conversations about faith and neighbourhoods. He studied at Covenant Bible College, Briercrest College, Regent College, Tyndale Seminary, and Jerusalem University College in Israel. He is the author of Imago Dei to Missio Dei [VantagePoint3] and the award-winning author of The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood [Urban Loft Publishers]. Since 2015 his column, Into the Neighbourhood, has been printed over two millions times in weekly newspapers. Preston lives in Chestermere, Alberta, with his wife Kelly, their daughters Scotia and Ivy, and a few thousand honeybees. You can connect with Preston on Twitter and on his website.