Applebee's Knows My Neighbor Better Than Me

I feel like I don’t know my neighbor.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever really known my neighbor. Whether it was at the same exact house I lived in for 18 years of my life in Duncan, Okla., either of the 4 different places I lived in college or in my residence in Seattle, I don’t think I’ve ever known my neighbor. Quite frankly, that’s sad.

As introverted as I am, it makes meeting people exhausting for me. Yet at the same time, I get a lot of joy out of hearing other people’s life stories because no one’s story is ever the same. A big part of my job now is to meet with strangers on a regular basis for coffee shops and ask them about their families, their churches and their stories. It’s super intriguing, and you’d be amazed at the amount of info someone will share if you just ask them – even after just meeting one time.

As I look back on all the people that I’ve lived only a stone’s toss away from, it makes me feel like someone gave me a stack of New York Time’s Best Sellers that I just poured kerosene on and lit on fire, not caring to even look past the cover. But that’s the truth, isn’t it? How quick are we to know only the cover of someone when in reality, there’s an entire novel to dive into that’s possibly better than any of the Harry Potter series. Personally, I tend to not even know the ‘covers’ of my neighbors. I couldn’t tell you a single one of my neighbors names, whether it’s anyone that has lived beside me or across the street from me. For all I know, I could’ve been living next to John Wayne’s grandson or something. The point is, I’ve really missed out.

There are only a few things I know to be true about knowing neighbors. The main one is the ‘Golden Rule, to “love your neighbor as yourself.” What if that literally means your neighbor? If it does, I’ve royally been breaking the Golden Rule for 23 years. There’s another verse in the Bible that say’s we’re to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” I feel like our minds are quick to forget the “Judea and Samaria” and the places close by jumping automatically to the ends of the earth. I know when I think missions, I don’t think my neighborhood. I think Africa. For some reason, I think everyone thinks Africa . . .

This year is the first year I’ve ever had to share the same room with someone else. As a result, I have three REALLY close neighbors, each with our own twin-sized bed within six feet of each other. One of my roommates and I came to a sad, but true conclusion. We’ve been living an arm’s length away from one another for seven months, and we just went to coffee together for the first time last week. We’re friends now, and we even follow each other on Instagram.

The truth is, Applebee’s knows my neighbor better than I do, and I’ve treated the Golden Rule like fool’s gold for the past 23 years. Flying to Africa is expensive but walking next door isn’t; maybe I’ll try that.

– Cliff