The number of LDS people who routinely offer anything they own—or know of someone else owning—to our family and other neighborhood and community members is countless. Something as simple as providing your neighbor a bay leaf, a pinch of cloves, an onion or eggs, we’ve all done. But I’ve witnessed the loan program span household items from a tablecloth, ladder, or small kitchen appliance to musical instruments, large appliances, and vacant homes of relatives. One of our neighbors offered us the use of their motor home—they even said we could take it to Mexico! We declined but were blown away by their sincerity.
My husband and I consider ourselves to be helpful, neighborly, generous—and reasonable—people. If we can assist a friend or neighbor in need within our financial means, considering our own family time demands, and my mental/emotional health capacity, we do.
A few years ago a neighbor called one morning and asked for a favor.
“Hi, Chris. Sorry to call so early, but I need to borrow a crock pot. Do you have one?”
What my neighbor didn’t know was that I had the coveted Porsche of slow cookers, which I had wanted for over a year and had finally convinced my husband of the massive ROI in the form of healthy, savory meals that I would effortlessly produce with our purchase. I bought the slow cooker, placed it in a safe spot on the pantry shelf so I could admire its beauty and potential, and then never prepared one meal in it. In the meantime, I had given a couple of old slow cookers to a friend because she needed them for family and church functions.
I panicked when I heard my neighbor’s simple request.
Oh no. What do I do? What do I say? This is crazy. It’s just a slow cooker—a crock pot—you have to loan it to her. But wait . . . what if she’s using it for a church function? Those LDS ward gatherings are a zoo! There are always a million kids and careless dads who don’t know that if they use the wrong serving utensil, they’ll scratch the appliance. But Mormons are so kind and giving. She’d loan her new slow cooker to anyone. She knows I’m not Mormon, though—she’ll expect less from me . . .
“I do have a crock pot. A new one, actually,” I said.
“Oh. That’s nice. Would you rather I not use it?”
“Well, I hate to ask this, but is it for a church function?”
“Um, no. I’m having my parents over and wanted to keep some pre-prepared soup warm. But I don’t want to borrow it if . . .”
She’s not actually preparing food in it, I thought. That’s better.
“I’m happy to loan it to you!” I lied.
The slow cooker was borrowed then returned in its original scratch-free state—in fact, it may have even looked better because someone had dusted it for me. I felt both relieved and foolish. I’d always encouraged my kids to share everything with guests. Now I sympathize with them when a visiting child plays roughly with a special new toy. It’s difficult, especially when the toy was expensive and hard to come by (remember Tickle Me Elmo?) then gets trashed by a little friend. So I’ve heard.
I have LDS friends who can commiserate with the inner struggle I experienced the day I grudgingly loaned my slow cooker. They’ve had things returned sub-par, or never returned, and admitted to claiming an item wasn’t available for a borrower, even though it was. I know I’m not alone.
The definition of “good neighbor” obviously encompasses much more than being a gracious loaner and loanee. However, I propose that if we’re going to cohabitate in a What’s-Mine-Is-Yours community, we all remember what it’s like to finally receive that special toy as a child and have it scuffed by another kid when your mom makes you share.
If anyone needs a motor home for a trip to Mexico, I can hook you up.
Chrisy Rossis the author of To Mormons, With Love (A Little Something from the New Girl in Utah), available at deseretbook.com. To learn more about her, visit chrisyross.com.