Okay, you know her name and that she has three children and came from Peoria, and she attends your church when she bothers with attending.
You even know what she and her husband argue about. She lives just down the street, after all.
You just do not feel very close. Oh, sure, you’ve given her a ride when her car was in the shop, you watched her children while she painted a room, and you took her some soup when they all had flu. She lives just down the street, after all.
She is what the ancient Hebrew called anesh-shalom and the ancient Greek called hetairos. These words refered to acquaintances that we work with, live with, even depend upon, but yet are not necessarily of our choosing. Examples are Jeremiah 38:22 and Matthew 20:13.
It would not yet be wise to trust her, but how do you befriend her?
You take food to her, help with her children, and give her rides; that’s how.
While you are at it, show interest. If you are only a helping hand, she will feel like a charity case. A person usually cannot open up to another unless there is a trade, a give and take, like a dance. If, over coffee or tea, you ask to see the paint job, ask her for a ride in return, or ask if her children would feed your cat while you are gone, you will deepen the relationship.
You will earn closeness that allows you to ask better questions than, “How are you today?”.
“You look tired—bad night?”
“So, how do you like the neighborhood? Are you meeting folks?”
“It was good to see you Sunday! Have you decided to join us, or are you still looking?”
Her answers will open doors for new conversations that are more meaningful. Conversations are the building blocks of true friendship. Slip in a hug, when appropriate, and you add the cherry on top: You add value to her person.
Realizing that each person on this earth is needy is the key to all relationships.
We once lived next door to the wealthiest family in town, totally out of our league. The wife once asked my permission to help plant my rose bushes. The part she really wanted to do was pick the grass roots from the soil, so it would not grow back so quickly. Her daddy, she said, used to make her do that chore and she seldom got a chance to show her expertise at it, anymore.
When we got thirsty, I brought out ice water in my old jelly glass tumblers. We sat on the edge of the terrace, on a railroad tie, and chatted as if we were just a couple of women who liked playing in the dirt, in our grub clothes. We talked about our mothers-in-law and about the neighbor’s cute grandson. You know, normal stuff.
She needed to feel normal.
And haven’t we all been there.