Melody Hatcher (holding leash) and her son walk with Ashley and her daughter Isabella in their neighborhood.

Why You Need Your Neighbor

words by

Melody Hatcher

photos by

Guy Gerrard

I’ll never forget the night I postponed my dinner prep because of a missing ingredient. “Should I stop everything to run to the store? Might this be a time to reach out to my already friendly neighbors? Or would I bother them and interrupt their dinner preparations?”

I decided to send a quick text to a few neighbors: “Do you have any extra flour tortillas? I only have corn. I’m happy to replace them the next time I go to the store.”

Talking with Aura Cater. She is a nurse. Getting some air after the rain. Melody purposefully reached out to Aura when she needed some ground coffee. Gladly sharing some espresso, Aura invited Melody into her home, enabling them to grow a deeper friendship.

Surprisingly, no one condemned me for poor planning. One friend wrote, “I need to run to the store; I can go now and pick some up for you.” Another just showed up at my door with a knock, delivered her tortillas and a smile, then dashed back to her own family dinner table.

Earlier, I had hesitated to text a new neighbor, Helen*, but after dinner, I saw her reply: “So sorry, I don’t have any tortillas, but you would be welcome to them if I did.”

Less than a week later, Helen sent me an urgent message of her own: Could I meet her young kids at the bus stop? I doubt that Helen would have asked me for help if I had not done the same a few days before. I didn’t get tortillas from Helen that night. I got something much more satisfying: a chance for Helen and me to connect, opening up a future opportunity to serve her family.


Talking with Elena Esposito, who gave Melody a big piece of cake. Elena gives Melody and her son some sweets left over from a family lunch. Elena loves to garden and enjoys giving plants to other neighbors through Melody.

Jesus’ model for hospitality involves interconnected and interdependent communities eager to serve one another. Interdependence means each person feels equally needed and all benefit from their interactions. In my study of the Bible, I’ve also learned that hospitality involves far more than extending an invitation into my home.

Knowing neighbors outside my home

Serving with Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO (NBS2GO), a ministry of Cru City®, I am amazed at the quality and quantity of relationships God has provided me with — more than 300 individuals from all walks of life, from over 40 countries. Once strangers, I now consider them some of my closest friends.

Met a family packing up the car to go skating. Emily Vanyur is the mom, Wyatt, and Zoey the kids. They seemed pretty good friends, as well as the boys. Melody’s son and a new neighbor’s son (left) meet for the first time and connect over a shared interest in video games while their mothers talk. Melody gets to know Emily and her daughter, whom she had met a week earlier while dropping off welcome gifts.

Most of my time making friends happens outside of my home. The house itself is not the most important factor; my attitude matters more. I take my cues from Jesus, who had no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58) and yet was our ultimate example of hospitality. He expertly practiced the Greek definition of hospitality: philoxenia, literally meaning “friend to a stranger.” (The New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek.)

As I walk my dog down familiar streets, often with my son meandering along, I pray for neighbors, invite others to walk alongside, or linger with whomever God brings across my path. I also look for ways to connect my neighbors to each other.

Talking with her neighbor Barbara. I believe her husband was a pastor. Melody and her son, with their dog, Bingley, stop in front of Barbara’s home — a favorite spot during the summer heat since Barbara began leaving out a bowl of water for dogs.

“Hola, Carolina!” “Ciao, Rosa!” I enjoy greeting my neighbors in different languages. There is a saying in a language one of my neighbors speaks that they shared with me early in our friendship. It speaks of what to prioritize when purchasing a home: “Don’t buy the house; buy the neighborhood.” This phrase implies that a house is changeable, but the neighbors around you are not. Despite the differences in my community, most of us genuinely care for each other. It has taken many years, opportunities and committed individuals to make it so, but I often hear, “We have the best neighborhood!”

Melody at the home of Inidi Lame. Her inlaws live with her from another country. Her mother in law makes lots of amazing food. A guest is always fed. Inidi and Melody catch up after not seeing each other all summer. Melody recognized Inidi’s son at the community pool as a student who attended the same karate class as her son.
Melody at the home of Inidi Lame. Her inlaws live with her from another country. Her mother in law makes lots of amazing food. A guest is always fed. Melody begins her visit to Inidi’s home by reconnecting with her friend’s shy daughters. Building strong connections requires her to be a learner as she crosses bridges between language, cultural, and generational divides.

Accepting hospitality

Jesus depended on others for housing, transportation and meals, leading his followers to do the same. The more my neighbors have turned to each other for help, the more they reflect Jesus’ neighboring pattern. Not that Jesus ever became a burden or overstayed his welcome. He depended on the Father but invited people to join him as valuable and necessary participants in his life and work.

Melody at the home of Inidi Lame. Her inlaws live with her from another country. Her mother- in-law makes lots of amazing food. A guest is always fed. She is giving Melody some food to take to her husband. Yllka, an amazing chef, encourages Melody and her son to taste her homemade spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie. Melody gets a chance to pray with Yllka, and they embrace as she leaves.

For example, Jesus desired a place to rest when in Bethany, and his friends there enjoyed his visits with them. In the same way, my garden-loving neighbor wants to give away her excess plants as much as a new immigrant desires to replace a garden she left behind. The neighbor recovering from surgery needs a visitor as much as the isolated neighbor enjoys sharing a meal with a guest. Without these relationships, my life would be one-sided, self-reliant and independent of those precious people God has placed around me. My neighbors have helped each other by offering home-cooked meals when there’s a need, driving people to appointments, and even working together to pay for tree trimming and lawn maintenance for those who are grieving.


“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10, New Living Translation).

I’ve discovered another way of creating mutual relationships with people in my neighborhood. Just as Jesus honored people with his presence at their home, event or celebration, I can also bless people by accepting their invitations. When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home, what happened next would transform the entire region. Deeply moved by Jesus’ message and presence, Zacchaeus repented, then vowed to give half of his possessions to the poor and give everyone he had cheated four times back to them (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus cheerfully received the hospitality of a variety of hosts and instructed his disciples on how to be good guests.

Melody with Sami Stevens. Melody mentors Sami, and they are good friends. They made cookies together to give to neighbors and put together gift bags. Sam, a teenage neighbor, and Melody converse after preparing gifts for neighbors as her son dashes through the dining room.

Clearly, both receiving and extending hospitality matter greatly in God’s kingdom. Consider Jesus’ parables about those attending feasts, and how the disciple Peter experienced a prophetic dream that prepared him for Cornelius’ dinner invitation. Jesus’ example encourages us to respond favorably to our neighbors invitations, even if we find ourselves in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar context.

  1. Be the guest you would want. RSVP, arrive on time, and if you’d like your children to accompany you, request permission if they aren't already mentioned in the invitation. 

  2. Don’t come empty-handed. Bring something culturally appropriate to share. My favorite dish to bring is a fruit salad.

  3. Communicate gratitude.

  4. Consider accepting an invitation even if you would be entering an unfamiliar situation. Jesus made himself uncomfortable for the sake of others, and we should too. 

Strategic gifting

Connecting with others often starts with an act of love, and my favorite kind is what I call strategic gifting. My best gift for any occasion is God’s Word. I love giving out copies of the Gospel of John from the Pocket Testament League (PTL)  — not only to neighbors but also to home maintenance workers, delivery drivers, and restaurant and cleaning staff.  They have intriguing covers and are small and affordable ways of regularly giving away Scripture. Sometimes I accompany the PTL Bibles with a few of my favorite things, like tea and snacks, all in a small, seasonally appropriate bag. When presenting the gift, I often say, “May I share with you one of my favorite books?”

Not a set-up. Melody was really leaving her home to give some gifts to some neighbors. Melody leaves her home with thank-you gifts for neighbors who are helping to foster relationships in their community. She will also give welcome gifts to some new neighbors she knows God has brought there for a reason.

These verses motivate me in the relationships I build with neighbors: “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23, NLT).  – Melody Hatcher

I gave a Bible to a friend’s daughter a few years ago, not knowing how she would react.

“A Bible!” she exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to read one of these. I just never got around to buying one.”

Molody's mom, Kathy Secrest, and Melody lead a Bible study with several neighborhood ladies. Melody attends a Bible study led by her mother, Kathy, along with other women committed to loving their neighbors.
Molody's mom, Kathy Secrest, and Melody lead a Bible study with several neighborhood ladies. Melody is talking with Kim Black after the study. Melody and Kim talk as the Bible study winds down for the summer. This was Kim’s first time attending a Bible study.

After that experience, I decide to give out Bibles the first time I welcome a new neighbor. No one has ever returned or refused this gift. Recently, newly settled neighbors thanked me for the Bible, shared they were looking for a church and showed interest in joining a Neighbor Bible study. A Bible immediately opened a door of opportunity. Now, loving Jesus and God’s Word isn’t a secret I keep from anyone I meet. 

According to Christian philosopher Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

The other gift I like to give is my focus and attention. By initiating hospitable conversations with a few careful questions, I can communicate welcome, kindness and curiosity wherever I go. And adding attentive body language and active listening helps me to embody biblical hospitality whenever I engage with anyone God places in my path. As my neighbors listen to me and also care for me, I know I need their friendship as much as they need mine.

Melody with Sami Stevens. Melody mentors Sami, and they are good friends. They made cookies together to give to neighbors and put together gift bags. Melody hugs Sam, a teenage neighbor she mentors. They have built a strong bond of interdependence and appreciation for each other.

To access sample questions that might open up conversations with neighbors, check out the GodTools app and find the tool called “Openers.”

As I continue to connect my life with those around me, I sense that God strategically placed my family as a lighthouse to our neighborhood. We are a small structure, but God’s powerful light radiates from our lives as much when we purposefully go out as when we intentionally invite others in. Like our modest house, a lighthouse only has a little space inside; but what it lacks in internal accommodations, it makes up for with external purposes. My family and I believe that following Jesus’ model is the most rewarding and mutually beneficial way to live. For over a decade, I’ve witnessed and lived in communities that reflect the beauty of Jesus’ example for neighboring hospitality. It is a wonder to behold.

Molody's mom, Kathy Secrest, and Melody lead a Bible study with several neighborhood ladies. Melody and her mother plan for the next Bible study outside Kathy’s home. Kathy has been Melody’s example of embodied biblical hospitality her entire life.

My prayer is for God to open your eyes to the mutually beneficial relationships nearby. I pray that you become known as generous with your attention and as a strategic gifter of God’s Word. May you learn to become a great guest who discerningly takes risks to cross barriers. Lastly, I pray that you obey the still, small voice and send your own version of a “tortilla text.”

Melody talking with her son's karate teacher while she is taking a break. The Karate Master (left) and Melody talk about a shared love of Asian culture. Melody views her son’s karate class as an extension of her neighborhood.

Melody’s neighboring tips

When you hear someone’s accent and want to get to know them better, you could say, “I like your beautiful accent. Do you speak any other languages?”

Learning people’s first names is essential to loving neighbors well. I often need to ask for people’s names multiple times. If you, too, easily forget names, ask how to spell them. Use a person’s name as often as you can when interacting with them, and invite them to correct your pronunciation.

Offer to share your phone number, which often leads to receiving theirs. It can help to add phonetic spelling or unique details about the person along with their number in your contacts list. The ability to text allows you to request help, invite them to a gathering or check on them in an emergency.

Melody's bumper sticker. Melody leaves home to visit a lonely neighbor. Her bumper sticker reads “We are all neighbors” and shows a picture of Mr. Rogers. She believes it implies the more subtle message, “We all need each other.”

* Some friends’ and neighbors’ names have been changed in this story.

Get Started

If you feel alone, consider starting a Bible study in your neighborhood. Then you will have a group of people to shoulder the burdens of your community as they arise. For help getting started, visit the NBS2GO website.

Next Steps

If it feels like a challenge to talk with your neighbors, look for more practical advice on “How to start getting to know your neighbors” in the Lessons section on the GodTools app.


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