It was 1997 when Terri and Scott Schrader moved in to their neighborhood, Hidden Meadow, a zero lot line enclave that included 32 houses on their street alone. With their daughter Kelly on the way, Terri and Scott were excited to begin a new adventure in home ownership—and even the news that their new neighborhood was locally referred to as ‘Hidden Ghetto’ didn’t deter their determination to make this house and neighborhood their home.
Fairly quickly, Terri says, she and Scott began to see the needs all around them. Small backyards and small houses meant that children played in the front yards and in the street, so it was not difficult to meet neighbors, particularly the children. Terri is gifted with kids—it’s like they just know that she is for them, and they flock to her because of it. And when children begin to trust, their parents often follow suit; so was the case with the Schraders. Domestic violence across the street, police cars a familiar presence, CPS a necessary phone call—any of these might have discouraged a less committed pair, but for Terri and Scott, this was their home and these were their neighbors.
By being present in their neighborhood, in their front yard, on bikes through the streets, Terri, Scott and their daughters, Kelly and Tracy, saw many needs, and because they knew and cared for their neighbors, they could feel for and with them as they hurt.
When they studied Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life along with the rest of the congregation, Terri says that the book articulated something she and Scott had been feeling for a long time: See the Need, Feel the Need, Meet the Need. Warren had codified what was becoming a way of life for the Schraders. By being present in their neighborhood, in their front yard, on bikes through the streets, Terri, Scott and their daughters, Kelly and Tracy, saw many needs, and because they knew and cared for their neighbors, they could feel for and with them as they hurt.
When Terri’s next door neighbor knocked on her door one day and told Terri that her husband was beating her, that she and her children needed help, Terri didn’t hesitate to step in, help them gather their things and get them to a safe place. When the single mom that lives across the street needed help getting her kids to school so that she could get to the first of two jobs on time, the Schraders stepped in to get the children to school each day. When Terri was visiting a neighbor down the street and learned that their house was infested with bed bugs, Terri tirelessly worked to get their house treated, calling on resources from our church and across the city to ensure that the eight children that lived there could stay in a safe, bug-free house.
To be invited in to these intimate, family spaces, to share the deep hurts of these neighbors, was not an overnight phenomenon. It was years of dedicated relationship.
Terri, Scott and their girls have spent years becoming friends with and ministering to the families on their street.
Learning about the Schraders intentional neighboring has explained so much. The past few summers, Terri has brought carloads of neighborhood kids with her to VBS, and this past summer, she drove the church’s mini-bus to and from church because so many kids wanted to come. I wondered how she knew so many kids, and how she had gained the trust of so many parents who knew nothing about our church, and some who knew little about God. But now I know. Terri, Scott and their girls have spent years becoming friends with and ministering to the families on their street. Their neighbors know them and trust them implicitly because that trust has been earned.
I asked Terri to share some advice for beginning to walk this neighborly road. In response, she shared some intentional steps that her family takes to be good neighbors:
- Get out of the house, go outside in the front yard, and be visible. Play with your kids, do yard work, and invite others to join you in conversation, work, and play. This is counter-cultural, but the single most important way to get to know your neighbors.
- Pay attention to the details and work to remember them. Terri literally keeps an old-fashioned Rolodex of neighbors. Each new neighbor gets a card where she records names, animals, and fun facts to remember. She says this is her learning style—to read and write information is the way she remembers details, but the important thing is to learn and remember.
- Talk to people. This seems so basic, but we don’t do it. Take the time to have a conversation, even when our crazy, hectic calendars tell us we don’t have the time to do so. Take the time to talk to people.
- Be helpful. Look for ways to help with a need your neighbor might have. Does someone need help getting a child to school? Borrowing an egg? Finding a resource?
- Follow through. If you say you are going to be somewhere, do something, say something, do so. Be trustworthy so that the next time you are trusted with more.