It’s 4:30 pm, time to open the garage.
I fumble in the dark to push the garage door opener while juggling my baby in one arm and my toddler around my leg. As the door creaks open and light bursts through the cracks, I can already hear the hustle and energy of our neighbors on the street. I start to see a few inches of the driveway when a red and black soccer ball rolls by, followed by about 12 running legs and all barefoot. “Oh good,” I think to myself, “Our Venezuelan neighbors are outside too. It’s been awhile since we had them over for dinner. Let me see when they’re available . . . ”
My thoughts drift back to my son and me. I’ve got one shoe on; Lord knows where the other one is. My toddler is barefoot, but it’s not that hot outside today, so I’m pretty sure he won’t burn his feet on the pavement. Plus, he’ll be in good company, I figure.
We wave to another husband and wife, who are walking their dog, as we set up a couple of fold up chairs in front of my car. I help my three-year-old scramble onto one of them, and then I plop down in the other with the baby on my lap. We begin to scan the street and see who else is out.
You see, it’s not uncommon in my neighborhood to see people sitting in chairs in their garages. In fact, most afternoons almost every garage, including ours, is open with the neighbors out with their kids, playing, catching up, and connecting with each other. This is what community looks like for us. It’s how I was raised, and it’s the type of communal living I want to teach my kids.
It doesn’t matter how busy our day has been or how much cooking I might still have to do for dinner. At 4:30, we press the pause button and go outside to make space for our neighbors, for relationships, and for true community.
Throughout our day, we actively pray for our neighbors, for their hearts, for God to draw them to Himself and that they would come to a saving faith in Him. We pray for God to open doors for gospel conversations with our neighbors in the same way that Paul prays for open doors in Colossians 4:3. But we don’t stop there. We then literally open our door, our garage, and sit outside in gospel expectancy.
I know each of my neighbor’s names, where they work, who their kids are, and what they like to do on the weekends. They know our family and all our weird quirks, like the fact that you can usually find us dancing in our sprinklers with our toddler every Wednesday and Saturday morning (he loves it, and he makes it look too fun!).
When we sit outside, we sometimes hold conversations with our neighbors even while everyone is still sitting in their respective garage chairs. “How was baseball practice?” my husband shouts to our neighbors thirty yards away. They shout back about how their son is learning to catch the ball, and they tell us when the next game is. My friend, Natalia, pops by and asks if I can watch her son tomorrow afternoon. “No problem!” I reply, “I’ll be home.” Another neighbor in a white pickup truck drives past and asks if we have jumper cables. We don’t (because we’re not really handy), but we know which neighbor does and we point him in the right direction.
The front of our garage is the space in which so many different lives converge, lives that wouldn’t otherwise cross paths. It is the space where life slows down, relationships are built, friendships are forged, and God shows up.