DAY 10: Grab a cuppa
‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Hebrews 13:2
As a former local newspaper hack, I'm used to talking to strangers and encouraging them to share their lives with me in sound-bites, for me to re-tell in newsprint.
I've done many a vox pop in my time, scouring the streets armed with a notepad and pen and asking inane questions of the few passers-by who believed me when I assured them I wasn't a chugger.
What I'm not used to is opening my home to strangers, or as Hebrews says ‘entertaining’ them. Is anyone? The word strangers implies something foreign, something alien, something unknown. But the word neighbours has an altogether friendlier and more familiar feel. Everybody needs good ones.
So when I got my first home of my own in Greenwich in March 2012, I was certain I'd be one of those people who operates an open house policy. I wanted to be the bastion of the community. I'd become a school governor, run a book club, do the local pub quiz and regularly have the neighbours round. I wanted to build community with those living around me.
But life has an annoying habit of getting in the way.
The days and weeks fill up with work, deadlines, more work, more deadlines, church, and the much-needed social gathering with those friends you already have. So the getting-to-know-your-neighbours thing slipped my mind. I'd find myself avoiding eye contact on the rare occasion I saw someone in the corridor in our block of flats, or avoiding getting in the lift with people for fear of being forced to make awkward conversation.
I'd started with the best of intentions, but it had all gone to pot. I'd also assumed that my neighbours didn't really want to get to know me anyway.
Community is kind of a 'Christian thing', surely? So when I was asked to take up the 40acts challenge to host a tea party for my neighbours, I was excited yet quietly dreading it.
I had no reason to be.
Because all I needed to do was open my doors, send an invitation and they came. I've discovered there are some great people living all round me – people with interesting lives, jobs, families – and people who love community, and who love a good cuppa.