American communities are not what they used to be. Today’s college graduate changes jobs about a dozen times in his career. Since he changes jobs every few years he usually finds himself moving every few years. And since he figures he won’t be with his neighbors for long he seldom takes the time to get to know them.
It wasn’t that way when my family moved to Fort Worth in 1966. Four different welcoming committees came to visit from four different churches - all asking whether we had found a church home. Our first batch of mail was hand-delivered by the postman. When he rang the doorbell he introduced himself and asked “Have you found a church home yet?”
We eventually found a church but it was not the home of any of the four groups that came to visit. They must have all written off their visits as losses. But that was far from the truth. In fact, my mother was so moved by their hospitality that she began regular church visitation as soon as she joined a church. She kept doing so after we moved to Houston.
Soon after we arrived in Houston my mother developed a clever plan to keep from missing any new visitation opportunities in the area. She went down to the Clear Lake Water Authority and copied all of the new addresses of people who had just opened new accounts. This was all done by hand as it was before the era of word processing and personal computers.
In 1969, mom’s visitation paid particularly good dividends as she met her closest friend for life, Lisa Chambers. Our whole family became friends with their whole family. In fact, the friendships endure to this day. There were many more friendships formed in the process. We still get Christmas cards from people who joined the church for whom mom was visiting.
Of course, there are the untold numbers of people we never hear from but whose lives were affected nonetheless. My mother knew from experience to never write them off as losses. I hope by chance that one of them is reading these words today. If so, thanks so much for seeking us out and welcoming us when we moved to Fort Worth.
When my folks finally retired and moved to Huntsville there were fewer opportunities for visitation. There weren’t many people moving into the very small neighborhood in which they retired so mom stopped doing these visitations regularly. But, one day, a different kind of welcoming took place in their little neighborhood.
Mrs. Bishop was a very nice lady with a very ill husband. She also had a son with a criminal record. So the two police officers who lived in our neighborhood decided to pay the Bishops a visit right after they moved into their new home. The officer knocked on Mrs. Bishop’s door and boldly stated that for years there had been no crime in the little neighborhood. And they promised that if anything happened they would come looking for Mrs. Bishop’s son in a heartbeat.
One of the officers came over to our house after going to the Bishop’s. He reassured my mother that Mrs. Bishop had been warned and that, therefore, there would probably be no trouble in the neighborhood. The officer was proud of himself but my mother was horrified.
Next thing you know my mother went into the kitchen and found her favorite apple cake recipe. She didn’t always bring a cake when she went on a visitation. But she figured Mrs. Bishop really needed one after her rude reception in the neighborhood. Naturally, when my mother knocked on her door and gave Mrs. Bishop the cake she was thrilled.
Mom got a “thank you” card from Mrs. Bishop, which was a very rare occurrence. She later got a request for the recipe for that apple cake, which she gladly passed along. She also got a renewed interest in doing church visitations. I guess you could say she decided to come out of retirement.
When the next family moved into their little neighborhood mom cooked an apple cake and took it down to them. But, this time, something happened that had never happened before. The woman of the house looked at the cake and laughed and said “We don’t need another apple cake, Mrs. Adams.” She saw my mother’s puzzled look and then explained, “Mrs. Bishop brought us one this morning.”
Those of us who are conservative Christians are apt to blame the problems of the world on others. When we aren’t blaming Obama specifically, we are blaming socialism and socialists generally. But none of these things are really problems. They are symptoms of a larger problem; namely, that others are assuming the responsibilities that Christians have been neglecting for years.
We can’t change the world overnight. But we can change our neighborhoods today. The Recipe has been around for ages. We just have to keep sharing it with others.