A Conversation with a Neighbour

A Conversation with a Neighbour

Yesterday a neighbour reminded me of something so simple, and yet so vital to my spirituality. Something so simple I often neglect it, put it to the back of my mind, saying it is for other people. Tim Shallard, he does more important things, he doesn't waste his time like that.

After a long day at work, I returned home with no desire to cook. I would much rather go to the takeaway and get the $10 special than cook for myself. But I had some broccoli that needed to be eaten before it went off. So instead of driving around the corner to purchase tonight's $10 delicacy, I pulled myself out of my room, and into the kitchen I share with about ninety other people.

As I started to stir-fry myself up some beautiful broccoli, I struck up a conversation with one of my neighbours I only knew in passing. This neighbour told me about her walk to the top of Mt Eden. Now, this isn't that exciting or spiritual, but she described how as walked she had time to notice.

Beauty in the journey

There was such subtlety and beauty she didn't usually have time to see in her busy life as a student. She told me how she met a man who was a Māori warrior. Half his face had a moko. They talked about life, philosophy, and love. We then talked about the book she was reading, and Chinese culture.

On returning to my room to consume my beautifully cooked broccoli and garlic stir-fry, I realised I would never have had this conversation if I had driven around the corner to the takeaway. On reflection I was shocked at how few times I had used the kitchen for more than boiling water and zapping 2 minute noodles in the microwave! I wondered how many of those beautiful conversations I had missed out on.

I find it easy to justify the busyness of my life, hurrying from one important thing to the next, all in a vain attempt to make the world a better place. Does my busyness actually distract from the good I can do in the world? Am I buying into what culture is telling me is the ideal man? Trying to be busy, strong, and independent, have lots of friends, and not to show too much emotion in fear of being labelled feminine.

Battling pride

I often feel some sort of strange pride when I tell someone I can't do something ("sorry, I have something important to do"), or when I brush off a conversation because I have an all important assignment due in two months. I feel like I have to live up to this ideal Tim who does so much good, and is friends with so many people, and acts in a certain way. Often I think my pride gets in the way of me experiencing the subtlety of life and of me noticing the person who needs a smile, a friend, or a hug.

I have themes for my years and my theme last year was "go hard in your twenties." Such an exciting idea! However, I don't think it looks like being busy all the time, or making everyone happy. I think going hard in my twenties means holding things loosely enough so I can stop and talk to the person who needs a friend, or a smile, or a hug. I think it means putting people above pride, and learning to experience the subtlety of life inside the busyness.

"Who touched my clothes?"

There is a beautiful story about Jesus in Mark 5. He has just been asked to come to the house of one of the rulers of the day. Jesus knows this person is important and this healing will give him a reputation, but on the way a sick woman reaches out and touches him. She is instantly healed. What Jesus does next is beautiful. He stops rushing to the man's house and asks, "who touched my clothes?" Jesus wants to stop in the midst of his busy life and hear this lady's story.

One of the things I love about this story is how Jesus chose to stop and listen to this lady. She was already healed, he could have kept going but he wanted to hear her story. He was wasting his precious time on someone society said didn't matter.

I want to live a story like this, where I am busy doing good things. I want a life where I prioritise these conversations, where I choose to listen to the stories, where I have time for people who need just a little loving and time, where I cook and have conversations rather than the cheap and nasty $10 specials. I don't want to live a slow life, but a full life, where I prioritise people over my pride.

Tim Shallard is a part owner of a pretty cool café in Auckland City. He studies theology at Carey Baptist College, runs a poetry collective, and is passionate about coffee, community, and living the dream.

Tim writes for Christian Today on behalf of Press Service International. The original version of this article was first published in Christian Today. Used with permission.

Photo Credit: tomertu/shutterstock.com

Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Share this Story