Neighbor: (noun) one living or located near another

Neighbor: (verb) to adjoin immediately or lie relatively near to

Friend: (noun) one attached to one another by affection or esteem, one that is not hostile, a favored companion

Friend: (verb) to act as the friend of

Merriam Webster Dictionary

I stopped by a friend’s house the other day. They live in my neighborhood. I had a quick question and was unaware they were busy at the time.

After I knocked they opened their door. They explained they were busy. I explained my question wasn’t urgent, we could connect another time.

As my friend turned around and closed the door they explained to the people inside, “it’s not a friend, just my neighbor.” And the door closed. I didn’t hear any more of the conversation.

I left.

I was left… with a feeling of discomfort.

What is the difference between a friend and neighbor? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a friend involves affection or companionship. Being a neighbor involves proximity. Someone could be both a friend and a neighbor. In fact I thought that’s what I was.

Yet now, I’m thinking a bit differently.

If I were my own best friend, left in a space where I thought I was a friend, but really I am someone of proximity (not affection), I would pause. I would honor those feelings of hurt, discomfort, and uncertainty as they arose.

I want to offer the benefit of the doubt. I overheard one short statement or interaction with someone else. Something I was probably not supposed to hear (but they said it while the door was still open and I was standing there). Does that one interaction change years of previous interactions?

Perhaps this person defines ‘neighbor’ differently than the Dictionary does? Perhaps a ‘neighbor’ for this person is someone of both proximity and affection?

Or perhaps, this interaction finally brought to light an uncomfortable feeling that was already there. A feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A feeling of differing esteem. Perhaps a feeling of me holding someone in a higher esteem than they hold me? Hmmm, well that is a bit uncomfortable isn’t it?

Yet, it’s also freeing. Now I better understand the boundaries or the rules of engagement. And now I can choose how to spend my time and affection more wisely perhaps. Uncomfortable, but growing. Feeling gratitude for the opportunity to learn. Feeling grateful for having both friends and neighbors in my life.

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