We are big fans of the work of Preston Pouteaux, pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere, Alta., and author of The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood. The May/Jun Faith Today has a story by Pouteaux, adapted from that book. In it, Pouteaux offers tips for ways you can become a “neighbour keeper” in your own community. Here’s a taste of what you can read in the current Faith Today, by Pouteaux. Read on….
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Do I, as a pastor and neighbour, move about my neighbourhood actively, attentively, patiently, and with a focus to bring life? Do I make things beautiful? Do I ensure others benefit from the life I lead? Do I start my day intent on leaving it better than I found it? Do I work with others to find creative ways of helping my city thrive? I asked myself, “Am I a keystone person?”
Keystone people may not be the most noticeable or celebrated, but through their care and attentiveness become essential to their neighbourhood. They support and give shape to the health of their community. Keystone neighbours are life-giving people who in time become important to the world they help create. I wondered, if I moved away or was removed from my neighbourhood, would it be a sad day? Would people realize something good, refreshing and lifegiving had left? I wondered, “Am I a keystone person?”
This question has been, in many ways, the foundation of my work. I questioned the impact of my life and faith as I watched those bees come and go from their hive. Was I merely working for my own benefit? I could say I was working for the wellbeing of my closest friends and family, but was I truly tending to the improvement of my whole city in a lasting way? My experience at the beehive raised this very important question. Was I postured in such a way to bring life to the world around me? And what would need to change to become more that kind of person?
Keystone people are the community connectors, those who see small ideas and bring them to life. They are the eyes of the city, the sages who observe and find patterns. They work to bring pieces together, redeem what is broken and strive for peace. Keystone people instill a sense of hope that grows beyond themselves, often sacrificially. They love deeply and genuinely, serving with a deep character-shaped influence. They are humble and create a culture of growth, breathing life into everything they do.
Things you can do to become a neighbour keeper in your community
- Be a community connector by starting a neighbourhood directory. People who live close to each other are often more than happy to know and be known by their neighbours.
- Plan a block party for the summer, serve hot cocoa on Halloween or surprise your neighbours by booking a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the winter.
- Always support a lemonade stand and buy all the girl guide cookies that come to your door.
- Trade with your neighbours. I’ve traded my honey for butter tarts, hummus, even duck meat (that’s another story!).
- Start a neighbourhood Facebook page. Give it a logo and a creative name.
- Organize a community garden tour, exchange plants or share seeds.
- Drop off handwritten notes of gratitude or encouragement to your neighbours. This is a surprisingly profound act of kindness.
- Foster trust in everything. Open your home, listen for stories and speak without an agenda.
- Be a quirky neighbour – be bold, inviting, silly and caring. Memories are built by neighbourhood characters.
- Remember those who are alone, and intentionally reach out.
- Never pass over your neighbourhood – move through it. Walk and ask God to shape your imagination to see your neighbours as God does. – PP
How are you being a neighbour keeper?
Preston Pouteaux is pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere, Alta., and author of The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood. (IntoTheNeighbourhood.ca).