Neighboring Choices

by Catherine Johnson

Catherine Johnson is a part of SoCe Life, a nonprofit in the South Central neighborhood of Wichita, KS, and a hub of Missional Wisdom Foundation. SoCe is rebranding a neighborhood traditionally known for its negative characteristics by mobilizing the abundance that already exist within the neighborhood. Catherine is also a graduate of Launch & Lead.

Last week we trimmed a tree, which resulted in a pile of limbs in our front yard. We were glad to mark off tree trimming on our to do list; however, we now had to figure out how to get rid of the limbs. We have a neighbor, Joseph, on our block who owns a landscape company. We had heard through another neighbor that Joseph is willing to help neighbors haul yard waste away whenever he is taking a load for his business. This is great, but I don't have Joseph's phone number and he works long hours this time of year. It's not easy to track him down and ask permission to load a pile of branches on his trailer.

I also happen to have a friend outside the neighborhood who does landscape work and could probably swing by my house one evening and add my pile of tree branches to his trailer load of yard waste. I could easily text or call or even e-mail this person. So simple! And yet, this would not contribute to the social capital in my neighborhood.

I debated in my mind what to do, wanting to take the easy way out, but knowing that would not be best for my neighborhood. So, I watched for Joseph's work truck each evening and finally walked down to the end of the block and knocked on his door when I saw that he already had a trailer partially loaded with grass clippings. I asked him if I could just add my branches to his load of clippings headed for the landfill. Without hesitation, he said yes and told me when he expected to make his next trip to the landfill. Was that so difficult?

It was difficult for me! I had to go down and have a face-to-face conversation with my neighbor, when it would have been much more comfortable and convenient to just text a friend. But, talking to Joseph and asking for his help builds a relationship.

Afterword: The plan was for me to carry my pile of branches, one armload at a time, down to Joseph's trailer on Monday because he anticipated going to the landfill on Tuesday. However, when I got home from work on Saturday afternoon, the branches were gone! My next door neighbor informed me that Joseph had come down with his trailer and loaded up my branches that morning!