Reflections from a settler: “Small Moments of Purposeful Interaction”

By Vanessa Zuck

For the last ten months I served as a settler for the Good Neighbor House in the Sanger Heights neighborhood of Waco. The house is a community home focused on creating space for the neighborhood to come together and actively live out the message of loving your neighbor. 

I moved into the Good Neighbor House the same week that I moved to Waco from out-of-state. By being a new member to the city and neighborhood I was able to approach being a settler from the position of learner and listener. I was eager to not let opportunities for connections to be missed or to become too busy with my own concerns to overlook the reason for my placement at the house, which was the community. This was not easy and I hardly did it perfectly, but I always found that the moments I intentionally noticed my neighbors, tried to engage in a thoughtful way, or have meaningful conversations, were the most precious of my year. 

These moments typically involved making that extra step of engaging with a neighbor rather than hoping they would just happen. They required following up with a question or comment about the house or maybe even a personal question about myself, stopping what I was doing to engage with a family using our corner library, or asking thoughtful questions to learn more about someone rather than making small talk. My time at the Good Neighbor House feels most like a combination of small moments of purposeful interaction, trying my best to make each interaction matter rather than get lost in the abstract of what we were hoping to accomplish. It was every additional moment that allowed me to get outside of my normal routine or what I even expected for my job there that enriched my 10 months in Sanger Heights, and hopefully, each person I was able to interact with. It is just as I am leaving the Good Neighbor House that I have begun to feel the most comfortable and confident in our mission. Community living, earning the trust of neighbors, and working toward a common goal is not easy but I have learned to appreciate and honor the process. I am eager to see how the lessons from the Good Neighbor House will be applied in my new neighborhood and how to ultimately use the practice of living neighborly at each point of my life. 

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