Friday night, Catherine and I invited a few neighbors to get together to share food and a few songs. This is something Catherine and I have done once before. We keep it simple by baking a few frozen pizzas and then handing out our folk-music songbooks so everyone can sing along. In the midst of all of it there is space for people to share what is going on in life and also space to tell stories from older chapters of our lives. That night I realized that learning other people’s stories is a slow process and a joyful experience.
Here is what happened: in the midst of singing, someone requested Wabash Cannonball, which sparked memories for a few of my neighbors. They began telling stories which prompted more stories, which prompted a lot of laughter (that’s the joyful part). The slowness lies in the fact that I have known these neighbors for several years—and I had never heard these stories before!
I find it tempting to think that we get to know someone over a few conversations and that’s it, we know everything we need to know (period). But the reality is that we all carry many stories. As we get to know our neighbors better we have the wonderful chance to learn more and more of their stories and to share our own stories. As I have learned more and more of my neighbors stories and shared laughter with them, I’m realizing these aren’t just my neighbors, they are my friends!