"I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?" - Mother Teresa
A couple of weeks ago, I was eating dinner with R and a friend, L, while watching a talk about 'Christian Womanly Character' and there was a knock on the door. We generally know exactly who's at the door at any given moment (lady to pick up garbage, library book delivery guy, my dad to put up yet another nail in the wall) so that knock was a bit of a surprise.
I opened the door and saw four little neighbourhood kids looking up at me. They looked like 9 to 11 year olds.
"Can you come down?"
Because of the 'N'* rather than 'S'* in my INTJ personality type, I immediately started trying to analyze what was going on. At first I thought there was something wrong in the neighborhood, and they needed help... A fire? A fight? But no.
"We all are downstairs, and we want you to come."
So then I thought maybe there was some neighbourhood event that they wanted us to join. A Diwali party? A Christmas party? A new year's party? Um, no.
"We want you to come play with us."
Our interaction with our neighbours had been fairly limited. In the big city, neighbours in apartment building come and go, and there isn't necessarily a lot of hanging around (except sometimes with the mummies). Still, I knew it was important, so when we moved in three months ago, we tried to look for opportunities to be friendly. At Christmas we made plates of Christmas sweets and cookies with a Christmas card and dropped them off at each of our neighbours' homes. That was quite the adventure in itself.
One old Muslim couple started telling us about their various illnesses and pressed a banana and a few dates on us in exchange (a very Indian custom, I believe). One neighbour thought we were selling her stuff, and brusquely said "Nahi chahiye" (Don't want) and closed the door in our faces. I had to go back and convince her it was a gift. One guy opened the door wearing a towel!!!! I handed him the plate, did NOT ask his name or make any small talk, and fled. (Side note: Guys, put on your clothes before answering the door!)
We often saw the kids playing downstairs, and R once made a contribution to a collection the kids were taking up to get the neighbourhood stray dog spayed (she had just given birth to a litter of cute puppies). I once disentangled a kid from a bicycle her long skirt had gotten entangled in. But that was the extent of our interaction with them.
But somehow something about us must have attracted them because I can tell you for sure it is NOT normal Indian custom for kids to come ask adults to play.
"Play what?" I asked.
"Um... Cricket... Football... Badminton..."
Confessing my shameful lack of skills at all these essential sports, I promised them we would come another time, but chatted for a while. They were from different schools- some from the fancy rich schools, some from the middle class ones, but they were apparently playing together pretty happily.
Going to down to play with the kids is definitely something to put back on my to do list. It hasn't been on there since 1997.
Also, Mother Teresa, I'm happy to say that yes, I do know my next door neighbour- She came over and asked us to watch her kids while she popped out. This introvert counts that a success.
P.S. This incident reminded me of one of Jennifer Fulwiler's posts years ago that still counts as one of my favourites: The story of a friendship.
*From Wikipedia: Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing (S) are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere". They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data.
On the other hand, those who prefer intuition (N) tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.