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Ever wonder how you could be a better neighbor, but don’t know where to start? Help has arrived! Dave Runyon is the author of “The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door.” Dave’s experience with neighboring goes deep—in 2010 as pastor at Foothills Community Church and the Next Level Church, he launched a neighboring movement that mobilized over 70 churches and 40,000 people in the Denver Metro area and reshaped the community to become closer. We’ll learn about the benefits of this kind of connection, and how, with a few simple steps, you can build better relationships right outside your front door.
In this episodes Kristin’s Kitchen segment, Kristin walks us through her super easy banana bread recipe–her go to gift for meeting new neighbors. She talks about how this simple offering goes a long way not only in starting new relationships, but showing our neighbors that we care.
Connect with Dave:
- Website: artofneighboring.com
Intro: Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard and painted it turquoise. That first became a meeting place for friends and neighbors, a place to connect, and a symbol of hospitality. Now, Kristin invites you and her special guest to join her here at The Turquoise Table Podcast. Welcome.
Kristin: Hey friends. This is Kristin Schell and welcome to The Turquoise Table. I am so excited about our guest today. He is the perfect person to discuss the power of what being a good neighbor can have on a community. Dave Runyon has made it his life mission to teach the world about neighboring and creating connection. He’s been a pastor at Foothills Community Church and The Next Level Church. In 2010, he launched a neighboring movement that mobilized over 70 churches and 40,000 people in the Denver metro area. He’s going to share with us what those numbers really mean in terms of people who were connected and the impact they had.
He is the co-author with his co-author Jay Pathak of a fantastic book called The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. It is a truly wonderful book and one of my go-to resources. My connection to Dave actually began through my father. It was the summer of 2014 and the family and I, we were on vacation and my dad texted and said, “Hey. Do you know Dave Runyon?” At that point I had had my turquoise table in the front yard for almost a year, but I had not heard of Dave. Our paths had not yet crossed. So I took my dad’s advice and immediately downloaded The Art of Neighboring and I just inhaled it. Y’all, I felt like I had met this incredible kindred spirit who was already doing all the things that were stirring in my heart and I was beginning to do at The Turquoise Table.
Since then we have had the great, or I’ve had the great fortune of meeting Dave at The Art of Neighboring gathering here in Austin. We have both been part of the Neighborhood Collective most recently in San Antonio. I’m gonna read y’all just a smidgen of the book synopsis because it is, it’s so important and it’s gonna just give you a little taste of what we’re gonna talk about today. Here’s just a snippet from The Art of Neighboring.
“Once upon a time, people knew their neighbors. They talked to them, had cookouts with them, and went to church with them. In our time of unprecedented mobility and isolationism it’s hard to make lasting connections with those who live right outside our front door. We have hundreds of friends through online social networking but we don’t often even know the full name of the person who lives right next door to us.”
So, I believe, and anybody who knows and has heard me talk about The Turquoise Table before; y’all know this could not be more true. I am thrilled to talk to Dave and to find out more about him. He is now the co-founder of City Unite, which helps government, businesses, and faith leaders connect around common causes. He also serves as a consultant for businesses that have a desire to make a different in their own communities. Dave’s a graduate from Colorado State University where he studied history and secondary education. Now he has the great privilege and joy of speaking locally and nationally, encouraging leaders to work together for the good of their cities. Dave and his wife Lauren have four kids. Without further ado let’s welcome Dave to The Turquoise Table.
The Art of Neighboring
Kristin: Dave we are so grateful to have you on our show this week. Thank you for being here.
Dave: It is great to be here with you.
Kristin: Well, we cannot wait to hear all about the exciting journey you have been on. You’re a church pastor and the author of The Art of Neighboring, which is one of my favorite books, as you know. And now working with City Unite. Before we dive into all that, will you tell us, tell our listeners how you define the word neighbor?
Dave: Yeah. That’s a great question because certainly, if you’re looking at this from kind of a faith perspective, neighboring can mean a lot of things. I think in Jesus’ economy neighboring means when you care for the person in front of you you’re being a neighbor to that person, no matter who that person is, no matter who’s doing the caring, and no matter where you are. It’s a broad term. There’s a lot of power in the fact that it is broad and can be used in a lot of different circumstances.
“…in Jesus’ economy neighboring means when you care for the person in front of you you’re being a neighbor to that person, no matter who that person is, no matter who’s doing the caring, and no matter where you are.” – Dave Runyon
What happened to me is like I actually started to realize that there’s real power in just taking it literally. Actually, like when Jesus says love your neighbor like what if he meant your actual neighbors too? What if he meant like the person who’s sleeping 40 or 50 feet away from you? I’m kind of going back to kindergarten with the definition of the word neighboring and starting from there because I realize that, for a lot of my life, I wasn’t taking that very seriously.
Kristin: Well, and I love that you say, “going back to kindergarten,” because that’s certainly where I need to be. That’s where my mind operates half the time. We know, or I remember what it was like to live in community and in a neighborhood when I was in kindergarten.
How did you grow up? I mean did you know your neighbors? Tell us a little bit about your childhood and the place that you called home.
Rediscover Living in Community
Dave: I experienced both sides of this growing up. We lived in one neighborhood that was like really tight knit. I just remember playing with the other kids and our families spending a lot of time together. Then I grew up in another neighborhood in which people just kind of kept to themselves. I just remember how drastically different it is. If you’re out there and you’re listening, maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you’ve realized that you’ve seen both sides of this coin. I think that seed was planted early on for me that like this is a big deal and the quality of our lives and the way that we experience our life, a big determining factor of that is how connected we are with the people that live right around us.
It’s amazing to me that like in light of that that we don’t take more seriously the neighborhood into account when we’re looking for houses. We usually look at the floor plans, and the curb appeal, and the school districts, but how many of us like actually go out and walk and knock on doors and get to know and get a feel for what’s happening and the kind of connectivity there is around the neighbors before we make one of the biggest purchases of our lives?
Kristin: I know that and that is so true. I know that when Tony and I bought our house here, I think it’s been almost 12 years, that, no we didn’t think that. I mean we knew the neighborhood and we liked the neighborhood, but it never occurred to us to think about the people that would literally be just feet away from us. It just, it was shocking, now in hindsight that we don’t think of that anymore.
Dave: When I talk to a lot of people, Kristin, when I ask them about their childhood and their memories of their neighborhood a lot of people go, “Ah, I remember those days.” I think we all romanticize a lot of our past, so I think there’s a certain element of that but I think by and large we know that, today, with the pace of life that people live, the number of activities that kids are involved in, with technology and the way that it’s so easy to like leave work and keep working, there’s all these different factors. We know that today, there’s way less connectivity with our literal neighbors than there used to be 20 years ago. I think people are yearning for that. I think people are going, “I miss that.” What I’m trying to do and what I love about you, I feel like we are preaching the same message is like we’re just trying to help people rediscover what it’s like to live in community and to really know the people that live right around you.
“…we’re just trying to help people rediscover what it’s like to live in community and to really know the people that live right around you.” – Dave Runyon
Kristin: Yeah. Absolutely because it is. It’s like it’s one part nostalgia and one part now, in the here and now. I totally agree. I hear that too. So something must sort of have clicked or switched. So there was this article in Christianity Today that you wrote a while back. So you touch on this. You reflect on that your time as a pastor was mostly focused on sort of the weekend worship. So here’s this quote that you said. You say, “If this is success in ministry, I have to do something else because it feels pretty empty.” So was that sort of the pivotal moment where this longing in your own life to sort of create a sense of space where you lived happened? Or tell us about that a little.
Creating a Neighborhood Movement
Dave: Yeah. I had a series of crises actually that kind of got me to the place where I’m at, which I think is true with most people. Whenever I talk to people about transformation in our life, most of the time there’s some form of crisis that gets them there. So that’s what happened to me. I think the first crisis for me was after 10 years of being a pastor here, I worked at two great churches, I really did. But I, this is me, not the churches, like I got so focused in on that hour and 15 minutes on Sunday. I got my priorities so out of whack that it started to create a crisis in me and a tension in me that was yearning for something more.
What really happened, the biggest crisis that happened to me in this journey is that I was beginning to gather pastors together in our city, and we were thinking and dreaming about what would it look like for us to mobilize the body like in our community. Like if you could harness the volunteer power of all of these different churches and be able to impact a city, what’s the smartest thing that you would do? We started to ask that question and pray about that question. We created these little community conversations. We’d invite in our mayor or city manager or police chief and we would just say, “Hey, teach us about our city. Help us figure out where you’re stuck. Help us identify what the smartest thing we can do is if we were gonna actually work together and be on the same team.”
In the midst of all that about eight years ago we were sitting in a room with our mayor, the mayor of Arvada, we were in a suburb of Denver. We just asked him this question. If you could wave a magic wand and change something in our community what would you change? He had a long list of things that were all really good things that you would probably think of. He wanted to live in a city where there’s no elderly shut ins, or at-risk kids, or single moms living below the poverty line, all these different things. At the end he said this really simple thing that just like stuck in my head and in our head. He said, “You know, if you guys wanted to like have the biggest impact in our city, you should start some kind of a neighboring movement.”
Dave: Then he was just gonna move on. We’re like, “Nope, go back to that.” We were like, “We wanna hear more about that.” He just said “you know, what we know at the city level is that the closer people are in relationship based on proximity, the less weight there is on all the systems that we’re trying to provide for people in need.” I mean, we’re just sitting there listening to our mayor tell a bunch of pastors, “Hey, like you know what the smartest thing that you guys could do with all these people in your churches? You know that love your neighbor thing? You guys should actually do that with all your people.” Horrible moment. Horrible like gut punch, gut punch moment. That just stopped me in my tracks because I wasn’t doing it.
I was so busy doing other kinds of neighboring, the kinds of neighboring that I was choosing to do. I was so busy doing that that I would get home and that was my like time to just, I mean I remember I’d just drive home and go okay, just try not to like suck as a husband and as a dad today. That would be like my big … When you’re filling up your life with all kinds of other activities and then you just feel like you’re playing catch up when you get home leaves very little margin to engage with the people that are right around you.
Kristin: Absolutely. I mean you’ve got four kids too and I have four kids so I get that. I mean it’s like we’re just treading water, barely, trying not to sink. Much less take on this whole concept. I love how you started it with such a simple tool, and it’s the block map. I have my block map that I learned and made after reading The Art of Neighboring. Tell us a little bit about, was that one of the first things that you practiced yourself or why, tell us about this tool of creating a block map. I’m just gonna say, y’all, remember all these tools and resources will be in the show notes so what Dave’s gonna talk about you’ll have access to.
Taking Neighboring Seriously
Dave: Yeah. I wanna make sure I give credit to my buddy Jay who wrote the book with me. He was the one who had this block map thought. It was like this little simple exercise. It’s a little tic tac toe board. This, I would say, this little thing, and I’ll walk everybody through it right now, but this little exercise is 100 times better than the book. This is the secret sauce to everything that happened in our city. This is really simple.
Kristin: But you still gotta buy the book.
Dave: Yeah. Or just put a block map up on your fridge, make your own, whatever. So, here’s the little exercise. Let me back up one second. So, all of us as faith leaders in our community have this moment of crisis where we’re like uh-oh, we need to like pay attention to this. We started to wrestle with the idea of like why aren’t the people in our congregations like taking the idea of literal neighboring seriously? Why aren’t we as pastors taking the idea of literal neighboring seriously?
Kristin: Practice what you preach-
Dave: We started, go ahead.
Kristin: Practice what you preach.
Dave: Yeah. Totally overrated. We are like, I mean it was a real moment. So we as faith leaders started to work this out in our own lives. We started to just try to think about alright, how do we start to do some small things in our own neighborhoods to move the ball down the road, just to get a little bit of momentum going. We as pastors did this and it had such a profound impact on us that we ended up doing it, we did like a city-wide sermon series. We did this with all the people in all of our churches, this little bitty exercise because it had so much fruit in our own life. So here it is. So, I’ll walk everybody through it as you’re listening.
So, I want you to just imagine you walk outside the front door of your apartment, or your condo, or your single-family home, or your ranch. Whoever you are, you’ve got neighbors. Now think about, just think about like the eight closest households or apartment units, whatever to you. Then if you have something to write on just draw a little tic tac toe board right where you are. Imagine your house is in the center of that tic tac toe board. Now just write down the names of the adults. Let’s start with just adults. Write down the names of the adults who are living in those places that are closest to you.
Now, I know your neighborhood might not look like a tic tac toe board, that’s fine. It’s just a visual. So, just start to write down the, like how many of the neighbors that live closest to you, how many of their names can you write down, have you retained? I tell you what, Kristin, when I first did this it was the second crisis for me because I realized I could only write down both adults’ names in two of those eight boxes. I had met them all before but in that moment, as I’m looking at all these blank squares I just realized these people aren’t important enough to me for me to actually just retain their names.
Kristin: That’s powerful.
Dave: That to me was such like an eye-opening moment, going oh my goodness. I can make up all kinds of excuses. I can say, “Oh, I spend more time at work than I do at home.” Or, “Those people, they just tend to move all the time.” Or, “They’re never even out in their front yard.” I mean like all those excuses come to mind when you have people do this, right?
Dave: But the bottom line is like … Jesus says if you only do one thing, love God with everything you have, and love your neighbors as yourself. I just think that it’s really hard to love people if you don’t actually know their names.
“Jesus says if you only do one thing, love God with everything you have, and love your neighbors as yourself. I just think that it’s really hard to love people if you don’t actually know their names.” – Dave Runyon
Kristin: No, I agree.
Dave: So, that’s been the journey for me and this little simple tool, this little block map tool has been so helpful just helping people identify. It’s really concrete. It’s black and white. It helps people identify exactly where the best way forward.
Kristin: Absolutely. I really, I do, I wanna share my story when I did this. Then what I’d love to do too, is we wanna hear from y’all. Like when you do this little tic tac toe block map, what does it look like, because here’s what happened with me. I am, after I read your book and I tried it. I, at this point, I already had the turquoise table in my front yard. So, I’m thinking I’m pretty good. I filled it out and do you know what I realized? The names that I knew were the people who were just like me. I could say that I knew most of the neighbors around me and I expanded mine to maybe the 12 or 14 houses, my entire block. But what convicted me was that they were, they were the people who, most of them moms, most of them dropping off kids or on the same kind of soccer schedule.
That’s when I was like, “okay, who’s in every third house that I don’t know, that I am making those excuses for not knowing?” That’s when I got the gut punch. Because we do, we think we know. You know, “Yeah, I know my neighbors. I know my neighbors.” But do we? But do we and … we’ll get to it in a minute, but just the richness that comes when we really know more than just their names, but we have a relationship with them. I can’t wait to hear what people think when they do their block map. Let’s take them then a step further. So, for our listeners, they’ve done this block map and maybe now they realize they know a few neighbors, they’ve got some work to do. What are some practical first steps? What can they do, just some easy wins for people who are busy?
Living an Interruptible Life
Dave: If you’re like me you’ve got a bunch of blank squares that you’re looking at on that little block map. I would put that up on your fridge. Then I would let that be like a motivator. I’d let that be like a really easy scorecard for you. After you’ve identified, you’re like wow, some of these people I’ve met them before or I’ve never met. It just becomes a series of mildly awkward conversations.
Kristin: I love that.
Dave: You go over and it’s–I think this is the thing that you need to be a good neighbor; is the courage to lean into mildly awkward conversations. It’s mildly awkward to go over and to admit to somebody that you’ve met three times, but you don’t know their name.
Kristin: I love it. That’s the secret sauce.
Dave: That’s right. It totally is.
Kristin: That’s the t-shirt. Somebody’s gotta go first and just be awkward.
Dave: That’s right. That’s exactly right. It’s really not that awkward. I mean, you can think of a lot more awkward, but it’s mildly awkward. It’s mildly awkward to go over there and the guy that you’ve been calling “bro” for like two years, that you actually say, “Hey, this is embarrassing. I don’t know your name.” It would be really easy to go and like look in his mailbox and find out his name, or go look it up online, but that robs–there’s something like really potent that happens when you actually just go and have the face to face interaction.
So, I think that’s what most, the first step for a lot of us, for most of us, is just saying I’m gonna make it a priority to learn, and retain, and use my neighbors’ names when I see them. That’s all we did in our city. We just said, “you know what, could you just make a commitment to learn, and retain, and use your neighbors names?” Now that sounds really easy and it was. It was like this super low bar ask. That was the key. I think it was really clear, it was really attainable, and it was low bar.
I think that’s what–that’s one of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned, Kristin, through all this, is that when you set the bar low, you can get a lot of people to start moving in the same direction. It’s really contrary to a lot of what we get taught about leadership. Leadership’s all “set the bar high, do all this kind of stuff.” If you wanna start a movement, the key is to set the bar so low that people can’t crawl underneath it.
Kristin: Right. I mean we just want you to know one person’s name.
Kristin: Wow. Wow.
Dave: Or eight. Can you just go learn your neighbors name and then, because some of those neighbors you’re not gonna learn their name–they’re too busy. They actually don’t wanna be your friend. Some of my neighbors don’t wanna be friends with me. They’re really busy. They’ve got other stuff going on. They live a lot like how I used to live where they’re just like running from kid activity, to kid activity, to kid activity, to fast food on the way home, to get the garage door up and then get the garage door down, and then get inside; like detox from your day, and then wake up in the morning and do it over again.
Dave: Some of my neighbors live like that. I have a lot of grace for that because I think that’s how a lot of my neighbors experienced me for a while.
Dave: But some of my neighbors, they’re dying for connection. They’re dying. Most of my neighbors they have like their surface-y work relationships that we all have, and then their dysfunctional family stuff that we all have, and that’s it. They’re dying for something that just goes a little bit below the surface. So, what we’ve found in our neighborhood is that if you just make enough margin in your life, if you just live in a way that you’re interruptible, you’ll be shocked at how small things will end up making a big difference over time.
“…if you just live in a way that you’re interruptible, you’ll be shocked at how small things will end up making a big difference over time.” – Dave Runyon
Kristin: Right. No, I think that’s so true because “bro” doesn’t wanna be “bro” forever. I mean, maybe there’s some bros that do. There is–there’s such power in the name. Here’s what that says; when you look me in the eye and you say “Kristin,” or I look you in the eye and I say “Dave,” like that automatically says you belong. There is a sense of connection that is real. Even if you go just appear behind your garage, you cannot explain what that, we all know what it feels like to be called by our name.
I think I love just the simplicity too, of that. It really–I am one of those people, I make things harder than they need to be. I think if I’m gonna get to know my neighbors, my goodness, early on I was gonna know, I was biting off more than I could chew. So, I was hitting these sort of failures of making it–the bar was too high. It was once I–through a lot of learning through what you and Jay teach—learned to lower that bar. What do you think, what are some of the barriers? I mean you just mentioned sort of this sort of habit trail of the rinse, lather, repeat, or whatnot. What do you think in this day and age, really the barriers are? Why are we, for all intents and purposes, so isolated in our own neighborhoods?
Slowing Our Pace
Dave: Well, I think it’s because, I mean time is the biggest one. All the sociologists would say the pace of life that people live, and the way that people live is not conducive to being able to like really connect with the people that live right around you. Technology has had a huge part in time. When people used to leave work and they would actually like be done working. Shocking, right?
Kristin: Imagine. What is that?
Dave: Imagine that. Imagine that. Technology has made it so that most of us are always on. The e-mail is always clicking through on the phone. There’s always another text. You leave work, you’re around your home, it’s so easy to just be inside and to be doing multiple things at one time. So, the idea of like actually just like hanging out in the front yard, like being visible in your own neighborhood, the amount of people that do that now is far less than it used to be. I think that’s the biggest barrier. If you’re going to actually start connecting with people you have to live at a different pace.
“If you’re going to actually start connecting with people you have to live at a different pace.” – Dave Runyon
I think most of us want that. Most of us are like “why am I,” like, “this is a bad way to live, just running around like always being on,” not having healthy rhythms in our life. Most of us, inside, we go “that’s just not a good way to live.” I think the great news in all of this is that there’s some huge benefits for each one of us to actually start taking the idea of like loving your neighbor literally. It doesn’t just change the neighborhoods that we live in, it changes us. It helps us experience a better way of living in our own lives.
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Committing to Learn Our Neighbor’s Names
Kristin: So, tell us. I mean do you have any like stories that you love to share of how people that, I mean you’ve heard it all I imagine at this point, of people that have learned the names and have started to live, to love their literal neighbor? Like share a story or two from the early days of The Art of Neighboring if you will.
Dave: Yeah. For sure. Well I mean for me, yeah, there’s all kinds of stories. They’re all over the place and we’ve captured a lot of those in little video tidbits, and we’ll send a few of those your way and stuff. I think for me, the stories that I love are the ones that have happened to me and to my wife and I, in our own neighborhood. A lot of it has been very small things that have happened over a long period of time. I think that’s the key. There are all kinds of neighboring stories, and I’m sure you get them too, and they’re so dramatic and they’re so incredible. I think though when we tell those stories, it’s easy for people to like go, “Well, I don’t know. My neighbor’s house never caught on fire.” So, I love the stories that are just those small things.
For me, it was making a commitment to learn my neighbors’ names and then just starting to use their names when I saw them. I’m talking about like five-second conversations. “Hey Rod, how’s it going?” “Bill, did you see the end of that Broncos game?” It’s these little bitty interactions that over time end up making a big difference. Then it went to, “Hey, I just need to move something in my garage like ten feet. Can you help me?” That’s a really small step, but it makes a big difference, especially when you’re the one asking for help. You’re not over there like putting on your “super neighbor” cape and trying to like fix every window or gutter or whatever. When you’re actually vulnerable enough to go, “Hey, I just need a little bit of help.” Or, “I’m not gonna go to the store. I’m not gonna drive 20 minutes there and back to the store. I’m just gonna walk across the street and ask to borrow something.” Those are just those little things.
There had been a couple that my wife and I had talked about for years. We’re like, “Hey, we should have them over.” Literally two years ago–we never had them over. It was just like one of those things. We liked the idea of having them over, but we didn’t actually have them over. So, just to go, “Well that’s weird. Why are we doing that? Let’s actually ask them to come over. We’re gonna be watching the game, and they’re gonna be watching the game,” and just having somebody in your home for the very first time is mildly awkward. Having somebody come sit on like a weird painted table in your front yard is mildly awkward.
Kristin: Mildly awkward.
Dave: But it’s only mildly awkward.
Dave: Once you cross over some of those barriers everything changes. Then, just sitting across a dining room–I love block parties. I love all that kinda stuff, but the magic happens when you’re sitting across a table from somebody, sharing a meal, and you’re just going a little bit below the surface. You figure out like “hey, how did you end up in the profession that you ended up in? Hey, what are you learning about parenting right now? How’s that going?” That for me has been the good stuff. That for me has been the all-time stuff.
“…the magic happens when you’re sitting across a table from somebody, sharing a meal, and you’re just going a little bit below the surface.” – Dave Runyon
Then, just entering into other people’s worlds. So, my neighbors, some of my neighbors love to hunt, and I’m not a hunter at all. I’m like the farthest thing from that. So, we were having a block party, it was a number of years ago now, and I walked to them, we’re all kind of hanging out. This little group of guys was hanging out talking about hunting and I walked up and I just said, “Hey. What are you guys talking about?” They just like ignore me and keep talking about hunting. Then one of them looks at me and goes, “Hey Dave, you should go get your hunter’s license and then you should come hunting with us.” Then they all like laughed like this really evil laugh. We all kinda laughed.
I went to bed that night and I just had this thought. I’m like what if I actually did that? So, I went, spent like a day in the basement of some sporting goods stores watching like 1970s videos of people that are drinking, and like shooting their feet off. Then I get my little orange hunter safety card. I show up to my neighbor’s house and I just like throw it out there. I could tell in that moment he was like, “Oh no. I didn’t actually think you were gonna do this.”
Kristin: Right. Mildly awkward. Here’s Dave.
Dave: Then I go hunting with these guys, and I am just total amateur hour. I mean they’re teaching me how to walk quietly. They’re dressing me in the mornings–like how to wear the right stuff. That experience, and we’ve gone now for a number of years in a row. But entering into their world had changed the entire game. Just saying like, “Hey, I care enough about something you’re passionate about.” So, maybe for you it’s not hunting, but maybe your neighbor just loves to garden and maybe you don’t. What would it look like for you just to start to get curious about something they’re passionate about? Or cars, or baking, whatever it happens to be. It can be any number of things.
I just encourage everyone to start thinking about what’s happening right outside your front door. What are the people passionate about? It might be really weird to like start asking them about their hobbies when you’re still calling them “bro,” so maybe learn their name first and then just start to become curious. See where there are open doors and where that’s happening in your own neighborhood.
Taking Time To Build Community
Kristin: I love that. I love this notion of just being patient in the smallness of it. I think we’re so wired in our world to, “okay, I’m gonna go introduce myself, and then all of a sudden we’re gonna be friends and we’re gonna be doing this.” There are these crazy expectations that I know I have put on myself and other people. The truth of it is, these are many miracles of tiny little moments sort of strung together over time. I know that a lot of folks, they will—“gosh I’ve had five or six conversations and it doesn’t really feel like anything’s happening. I’m not going hunting yet or I’m not..” but you’ve got to give these things time.
Dave: Oh, it’s a long time. For sure, Kristin.
Kristin: It is.
Dave: It is the long game. It’s just taking the next small step.
Dave: That’s all it is.
Kristin: It is.
Dave: It’s just taking the next small step and just over time, you and I know this from our own lives and what we’ve experienced is that over time if you take those next small steps, the accumulation and what happens as a result of those connections and the bonds between people that live around each other, it’s magical.
Kristin: Yeah. No, absolutely. Sort of our mantra at the table is “gather small and love deep.” That’s so upside down because we, like I said, we live in a world that wants to scream big, and fast, and more. And really-
Dave: Yeah, exactly. Are you ever just shocked? Are you ever just surprised? You’re like “I wrote a book about putting a table in my front yard.”
Kristin: Yeah. I mean who’d of thunk that? I mean it’s ridiculous.
Kristin: Well, and you too. It’s like “okay, here we are. We’re just learn a name.”
Dave: Yeah. I wrote a book about saying like “hey, you should know your neighbors’ first names.” But here’s the beauty in that– it’s really attainable and it’s concrete. People don’t need more head knowledge. What people need is a way to start practicing what they already say that they believe.
Dave: That’s what I love about what you did, is that you gave like this one simple practice of just putting a table in your yard. It gives people a methodology. It gives them a bridge to take a bunch of stuff from their head and actually start living it out.
Kristin: To do it.
Be Intentional About Neighboring
Kristin: I want us to just touch on this a minute, ’cause I guarantee you you’ve experienced it too. It’s like people in my experience, and why the table resonates is, that it’s a permission slip. It’s like people need permission. You know what? We don’t. We don’t need permission to invite someone over, or ask a name, or to go hunting, really. So, I think that we need to get over this notion of waiting; waiting until, there’s never a great time to have that mildly awkward moment. So, might as well just go ahead and have it, and get it over with, and then just go about being a good neighbor. Right?
Dave: Yeah. And for me, honestly, it was just a lack of intentionality. I mean I wasn’t waiting for permission. It was just a lack of–I wasn’t living intentionally. I was just kind of drifting from one thing to another. I was living by the tyranny of the urgent. I was trying to get everything–as much as possible–done on the to do list as I could. Then I just squeezed out this idea of knowing the people who live right around me. It was about slowing down and going, “Oh, I want to be intentional.”
The other thing, the other genius about the Turquoise Table in the front yard is, just spending time in your front yard is a big deal. When you have a table out there, when you’re hanging out with your kids out there, these beautiful moments happen when we’re being “interruptible.” When we just appear to be interruptible, right?
Dave: So, it’s really hard to be a good neighbor if you’re not like “in” your neighborhood. So, just having something in your front yard, whatever it is, spending time out there, whatever it is, it’s a rhythm in your life that allows all these other unexpected things to happen.
My family and I, we’ve just seen that over and over and over again. Block parties and all the stuff we plan, those are fine, but the good stuff happens in the in-between, while people are passing by, while people are walking. That’s when the really good stuff occurs.
Kristin: I agree. Absolutely. On that, I wanna go back just a moment to the little tic tac toe board. One of the responses that I hear often when we’re going through a similar exercise is dogs and puppies. That is one of the best ice breakers. So, if you’re thinking, and you have a dog and you’re out in the neighborhood, maybe you even get to know someone’s dog’s name first. That has happened. I mean 90% of the time people say, “I met my neighbor because of their dog.” But that’s why I’m saying it–it has to be that simple. Everything’s right in front of us. We don’t need–
Dave: We always say dogs are cheating and kids are cheating.
Kristin: Okay, well, then you’re calling my bluff on that one.
Dave: No, they just give you a leg up.
Kristin: They do give you a leg up.
Dave: Cheating’s a good thing. They give you a leg up because they’re forcing you into our front-
Kristin: No pun intended with the dog. See? We’re keeping the bar low. But it does–that’s the ice breaker to it. So, if that’s the only little square or block you can plug in, then you’re doing good, is my point. Get to know that owner’s name.
Well, tell me what’s going on now. You’ve been at this awhile and you are just a wealth of information. Tell us about where you are in life right now and then sort of what you see for kind of across the country as folks are doing the neighboring movement, if you will.
Proximity Based Relationships
Dave: Yeah, I mean this whole thing was very unexpected. What I spend most of my time doing is; I help faith leaders gather together, and partner, and learn from government leaders, and then serve their cities together. The whole “Art of Neighboring” thing was a symptom. It came out of this other thing that I do in my life. So, it’s been interesting to try to manage both of those. I still love my city. I still love building these cross-domain partnerships that are focused on people in need in our community, and so I still spend a lot of time doing that. Then, this whole Art of Neighboring thing exploded on it. So, I travel around the country and do similar things there. I love helping, going into cities where faith communities are working together, to think about the common good of their city. I still spend a lot of time doing that.
I love it. I’m in a great place. I’m really, really enjoying what I’m up to right now. It’s been fun to watch. There’s this wave that’s been coming. There’s a wave around that’s gonna return back to proximity based relationships. We’ve seen it with the new urbanism movement—it was on the front end of this. We’ve seen it when I see a book like yours take off, and so many people just kind of gravitate towards it. When I see corporations–like what you’ve experienced–some of these big corporations have come and said, “I wanna be a part of this. We know this is right.” So, there’s this whole wave coming in our culture where people are returning to proximity based– they’re starting to value those proximity based relationships.
More Than Just a Wave
Dave: I think those relationships are different than anything else. When you start hanging out with just the people who live around you, you’re guaranteeing yourself that you’re gonna hang out with people who think about the world very differently than you do. I think what we need at this time, like in this moment in our history–the idea of literal neighboring relationships–it’s the antidote to all of the crap that’s going on in our world. It’s so easy, you get in there and you get locked into whatever news thing. You just go “man, everyone just hates each other,” but if you just walk outside your front door and start talking to people…
I have friends that have views on everything political, economic, that are all over the map. But our friendship is way bigger than those views. I wouldn’t know those people if I didn’t take seriously this idea of knowing the people that are right around me. I have a lot of hope, I really do. I’m very hopeful about this movement and I think there’s something in all of us that’s just craving it. We know; we know deep inside that something really beautiful happens when we’re connected, and when we live in communities where people know each other. And we know something’s wrong when it’s just a wave.
“…our friendship is way bigger than those views.” – Dave Runyon
If you’re living in one of those neighborhoods in which people just kind of barely wave to each other and then get inside their home, that’s not a good way to live. I think we–it just takes one person to begin to be a catalyst to change neighborhoods like that into something better.
Kristin: Love it. Preach, brother. I mean Dave. I’m not gonna call you brother ’cause I know your name. You’re Dave.
I hope that for those who are listening that that is contagious. Well, it is contagious and it’s so hopeful. Thank you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for going first. Thank you for enduring those mildly awkward moments, because you have really–you’ve pioneered a way for us. You and Jay, the work y’all are doing is incredible. I’m gonna make sure that everybody can reach out and contact you. What’s the best sort of website right now for folks to follow you or to find out more information?
Dave: Sure. There’s a bunch of free resources up on ArtOfNeighboring.com. So, ArtOfNeighboring.com is a great place to go, and you can see stories, and there’s resources, and for people–the weird people in the ministry world like me–there’s a bunch of stuff for you if you wanna help faith communities think through this. I just encourage you to go there.
But more than anything, I’d encourage you to get out in your front yard. Walk outside, put your computer down, and walk around. Hang out, play with your dog, your kids, a soccer ball–whatever it is. If you’re an empty nester like go actually pay attention to those little kids that are annoying and running around you and just like talk to them a little bit. Whatever it is, whatever stage of life you’re in, I just encourage you to be out in your front yard and making that a priority in your life on a regular basis.
Kristin: Love it. Front yard people, my friends, that is-
Dave: Front yard people. We are front yard people.
Kristin: We are front yard people. We’re gonna do it. Good. Well, I am grateful. Thank you for your leadership and your time and all of your advice. It was great.
Dave: Yeah. It’s been fun, Kristin. We’ll do it again sometime.
Kristin: Great. Thanks so much.
Dave: You betcha.
Kristin’s Kitchen – Sponsored by SHIPT
Hello, and welcome to my kitchen. I actually am standing at my kitchen counter and I’m getting ready to make some easy banana bread for us. So, here’s the thing, after talking to Dave, I was so encouraged to keep things simple and to just kind of push through those mildly awkward moments, and just get to know a neighbor, learn a neighbor’s name. So, here’s the deal, we actually have new neighbors. Like, I can’t make this up. They just moved in a few weeks ago. So, I’m gonna make this banana bread for them. Here’s the story, speaking of mildly awkward moments–if you hear a noise in the background I really am in the kitchen, so I’m mashing the bananas while I talk.
Here’s my mildly awkward moment story about our new neighbors. So, when they moved in we obviously saw the moving vans, and we could tell that a new family was moving in. I was sick that week. I wasn’t feeling good. I had laryngitis. I was all stopped up and so I thought “well, I’ll just wait until I get better, right?”
Well Sarah, our almost 11-year old, was having none of that. She was like, “Mom, you’re fine. We gotta go over. They have to know that we’re here.” So, she marched out the front door, walked straight up to their front door, knocked on it. I could see her through my window, through the kitchen window. And she just, I mean I don’t know exactly what she said, but when she came back she was so proud. She said, “Here’s the deal mom. I gave them your phone number, your cell number, and I told them your name and dad’s name. I just said “welcome to the neighborhood! They have two little girls, Mom, and so I told them that I could babysit and that Anna and Ellie could babysit. I just wanted them to know that we were here.”
I thought “oh my goodness, like shame on me for not being the first one to walk right over but ‘Yay!’ that our children are watching and listening and observing as we all live as front yard people.” I hope that’s encouraging.
Here’s what I’m gonna do to kind of get over my guilt. And there’s really no guilt in this. I just feel like I should have gone over sooner. So, I’m gonna push through that mildly awkward moment and take some banana bread to sweeten the deal.
So, here’s what we–it’s so simple. It’s just sugar, of course, butter, some eggs, bananas. I want y’all to look right now on your counter. Do you have bananas that are getting a little “hm-ish,” like brown? Then you have almost everything you need, I guarantee, to make banana bread. I am just gonna cream the butter and the sugar. It’s just softened butter. It’s been out on my counter. I actually left it out overnight ’cause I knew I was gonna make this–and sugar. Y’all will know it’s creamed because it gets all fluffy and it looks all creamy. So, you’re gonna do that in one bowl. I did not pull out my big mixer because I just think the handheld is simple for things like this. If you don’t have an electric mixer, don’t worry. I guarantee my grandmother was not using an electric mixer. You don’t need it. This recipe is so simple. You’re just gonna kind of stir everything together.
Then, while we were talking earlier, I mashed the bananas. I have three super ripe bananas in here. If you have four, great. Just use what you have. Then, you mix the dry ingredients and so that’s just flour and a little bit of cinnamon, and baking soda, powder, and salt. I actually use half regular flour, and then I mix it in with a little whole wheat flour. You can just mix it. It doesn’t matter. It won’t mess up the recipe but I like to think it’s a little bit healthier. Then I added a little bit of flaxseed just because. Why not add a little bit of nutrition and some of those yummy omegas? Other than that, this is so simple. It is the easiest banana bread. My family loves it. It’s delicious to take to a neighbor.
Oops, I cracked an egg. I’m cracking an egg. Isn’t this funny? I’ve never, sometimes I can’t really cook and talk at the same time, so we’re gonna see how this goes.
I would love y’all’s feedback on the cooking segment of our podcast because I love it, but I wanna know what y’all think too. Also, if you have suggestions for recipes let me know. I’m all ears. The easy banana recipe bread, the easy banana bread recipe is in our show notes. We actually created a little download PDF for you so you can just print it out, put it in your kitchen, and cook along with us.
So, as you’re thinking about neighbors, they don’t have to be new neighbors. Think about who you haven’t even met yet. Maybe you’ve lived in the same neighborhood for a while. Maybe you’re new to the neighborhood. Think about who you can introduce yourself to and do not feel like you have to take banana bread, but I promise it is a crowd pleaser. So, I hope you’re encouraged and thank you for listening.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe to The Turquoise Table with Kristin Schell and give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it. Until next time, gather small and love deep.
I’m enjoying your podcasts. I am almost finished reading your book. It is challenging to reach out to my neighbors. I live on a busy road and I would probably get all the people walking by and not my neighbors if I put a picnic table out front. And I honestly don’t like spending time in my front yard since it is so close to the road. However, I know those are excuses and I can figure out a different way to do this. I love your ideas and I hope to try something out that fits my living situation. Thank you for putting yourself out there. I absolutely love how God just dropped that picnic table in your front yard. And I do like your cooking segments. Although I love to cook/bake, I get frozen when I think of making things for others. This gives me easy ideas to whip up for sharing with others. Thank you, Kristin. You are an inspiration for slowing down and reaching out.
What a sweet encouragement. I hope you’ll continue to find inspiration here as you offer hospitality to your neighbors and those you love. xo, Kristin