Life in the new hood

This past Saturday night my new neighborhood - Wrightsville Green, aka The Hood - celebrated its annual 4th of July gathering. Before we even moved in, several of our neighbors were quick to tell us how fun and amazing this night was. Our home owner's association sent us emails reminding us of the festivities and we were asked to sign up to bring food at the community mailbox.

Seeing this as an opportune chance to get to know pretty much everyone in all 50+ homes, we agreed to bring cantaloupe (because you can't have a party without melon) and a cucumber/tomato/onion salad (because if they didn't eat it, I would). The days leading up to the shindig were filled with stories of past 4th of July celebrations and how this year's was going to be the best ever.

Finally the big day had arrived. The party officially started at 4:00 but we planned to be fashionably late because it's really awkward when you don't really know many people and you are the first ones to show up. Our posse left the house at 4:30 to make the short walk down to what is known as the common area, which is composed of the back yards of several houses that share Bradley Creek as their border. This creek is a meandering salt water marsh creek that eventually feeds into the Atlantic Ocean and it is an ideal spot for launching a small boat, kayak, or stand-up paddle board, which I haven't done yet but plan on doing soon.

As we rounded the bend of one of the houses, I was immediately struck by the decadent smell of smoked pork. Jamie, whose house lies in the common area and is also the pit master, lifted the lid to a rather large smoker to show me a behemoth of a pig that was almost cooked to perfection - all 140 pounds of it. He let me know that he also had a secret sauce that was willed to him by man whose barbecue sauce was locally famous but who would not give up the recipe until after he had crossed the threshold of heaven. I ain't gonna lie - that was some good sauce! Another neighbor, Steve, was also there and very attentive to the needs of this simmering sow.

It wasn't long before the rest of the neighborhood began to roll in (we weren't as fashionably late as I had hoped) and that's when the party really started hopping. Kids were absolutely everywhere! And the food just kept coming - chips and dips, rice and beans, chicken wings and some green rolled up things, as well as cookies and brownies and lemon squares, which I'm pretty sure Jesus Himself enjoys as a late night snack. When the pig was done and the men had begun to chop her into a million little pieces, the feast officially began.

Our two oldest daughters, who didn't know a soul, played it pretty close to the vest at the beginning, preferring to hang near mom and dad. Not so with our two youngest ones. You would have thought that they shared crib space with all of the neighborhood kids! Meeting new people has never really been a harrowing experience for my wife and I either, and we quickly found ourselves engrossed in conversations with people whom just a few moments before had been perfect strangers.

My wife met another neighbor who is also a professor at UNCW, teaching in the area of creative writing. I may or may not have told her to read my blog to see what she thought. There was sophomore at UNCW who will be living in his parent's newly purchased home (they live in another city) during the school year and who is interested in some of the same areas of ministries in which I have served. Chris is a guy from England who I kept having a conversation with because I enjoy discussing English soccer but mainly because I loved to hear his accent. There were also surfers, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, an MMA trainer, photographer, a couple who helps rescue girls from the sex trade, and many, many others.

The evening culminated in the grand finale for the 'hoods annual celebration - a fireworks display that was not only illegal but incredibly dangerous. The aforementioned Jamie and Steve were also a few of the pyrotechnic experts who had assembled an obscene amount of gun powder fueled entertainment, much of which I am pretty sure would get you locked up in Mexico.

Positioning ourselves a "safe" thirty-some yards away from ground zero, several of us oohed-and-aahed at the amazing display of glittered colors in the sky as the more responsible adults assembled the kids a safer distance away. Even more entertaining than the fireworks were the antics of several grown men as they lighted wicks and danced out of the way before certain disaster happened.

As the evening was about to come to a close, a near catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions happened. A mortar tipped, sending its wayward cargo shooting in all directions, including straight at me and my youngest daughter who decided to join me closer to the action. Instinctively I stuck out my sandaled foot as a shield to block the fiery missile, hoping for a split second act of heroism to save the day. Thankfully, it fizzled out right as it was about to make contact, saving both my lower leg and my Rainbow flip flops. Several of my neighbors reacted with horror at the fact that they had almost killed the new guy, but we were able to nervously laugh it off once we saw that no damage was done.

Indeed, this was a memorable night in our new neighborhood, one that we won't soon forget. We are grateful for the new friendships that were made and can't wait to grow and foster them more in the future. Lying in bed later that night, my wife and I were recounting our day when we both realized that something really cool was occurring in this neighborhood of people that we had just met: They were doing an amazing job of living in community with one another.

Community is what so many of today's churches are seeking after yet are failing to achieve. Relationships are built on more than just shared belief; they thrive on a shared connection, one that is rooted in a genuine interest in not only the well-being of others around you but in also sharing life with them - the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all.

I think we're gonna like it here.

1 comment:

Sheila Rowan said...

Yay, for you guys! I feel like you are a little closer to us now that you have a new hood in Wilmington...especially since it is close to RP! Sounds like a wonderful place to live! Hoping we can get some hugs when we visit! Love you guys!

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