My Vertical Neighborhood
What if our neighbors were our friends?
When Lynda MacGibbon moved from a small city in eastern Canada to a high-rise apartment in Toronto, she decided to follow Jesus' famous commandment to "love your neighbor" a bit more literally. In the past, she would have looked first for friends at her new job or her new church. This time, though, she decided to look for friends among the strangers who shared her apartment building—her actual neighbors in her new "vertical neighborhood."
In this charming and relatable memoir, MacGibbon tells the story of the community that took shape as neighbors said yes to weekly dinners and a writing group, Christmas morning brunch and even a Bible study. It's a story of the simple, everyday risk of reaching out with love to those around us, and of the beauty and messiness of real human relationships. It's a story of the risks—and rewards—of taking Jesus at his word.
"I hadn't meant to read My Vertical Neighborhood in a single sitting, but Lynda's warmth, authenticity, and vision made me realize I was encountering a soul-friend—which is what I suspect happened to her neighbors, who we meet in this book. Anna and Ron, Yolanda and Nicolai, Brian and Rachel could not be more different, but they become Lynda's found family—and, through this book, ours. Her beautifully told stories made me long for the kind of community she describes. Friendships filled with awkwardness and acceptance, feasts and forgiveness, trust and tenderness. Lynda doesn't offer a how-to on hospitality. There's an industry that already supplies that. What she offers is something far more important. She resets our imagination through tales of lost parrots and Christmas pajama parties. A tender dance in a nightclub and a fast friendship formed at a Starbucks. Unexpected prayer requests from Kiribati and unanswered spiritual longings in a Bible study. Studies tell us we live in the loneliest era in history. Lynda invites us into a better story."
"Riveting, fascinating, authentic, vulnerable, funny—this book grabbed me and I could not put it down. Lynda's neighbors are established, lonely, secular urbanites in a high-rise apartment building. When she prioritizes them over church connections, they become her best friends. What does it mean to love a neighbor? 'Pay attention,' she says. 'Notice. Engage. Welcome. Open your door. Accept their invitations. Give time. Laugh. Debate. Apologize. Forgive. Cry. Celebrate.' Caught up in the quirky lives of Brian and Rachel and Yolanda, we see how community can flower in sterile spaces, and urban hangouts can be sanctified. There is awkwardness and misunderstanding and swearing and sex talk and even invitations to strip clubs, but the joy of Jesus shines through."
"The storytelling in My Vertical Neighborhood is both masterful and mesmerizing as Lynda MacGibbon captures heartwarming, humorous, and often vulnerable moments on her journey to meeting, loving, and learning to be loved by her neighbors. In this book, MacGibbon dares us to dive deeper into developing bona fide friendships with neighbors whose lived experiences might differ from our own."
"Whether you live in a tall apartment building or a tiny house on a quiet street, My Vertical Neighborhood will make you want to throw your doors open wide and invite the neighbors in. This beautifully written chronicle of risk taking, hospitality, success, and even the sadness and struggles of building community for the sake of loving neighbors well over the long run, is inspiring and also practical. There are good ideas in these pages. After reading it, I want to shop for salty olives and some really good bread, and throw a dinner party for my neighbors."
"Lynda MacGibbon might have moved into her apartment building in order to help or serve her neighbors, but what she describes is the beautiful work of allowing neighbors to find and help each other. . . . My Vertical Neighborhood is not so much a manual on how to be an urban missionary as it is a gentle, inspiring memoir about neighborliness itself, and the way God works through us when we submit to the practices of humility, presence, and otherliness."
"In this intimate introduction to living intentionally into a community, Lynda MacGibbon captures the inconvenience and surprise of what happens when you take the call to live deeply into the world where God has placed you. Your neighbors become your friends, your friends become your community, and then the discoveries begin. Lynda has lived this out, fully and generously. She shares this intimate journey with us in My Vertical Neighborhood, and we are better for it."
"This heartwarming story is told with honesty and humor as Lynda introduces us to some of her friends. Spending time in her vertical neighborhood helps us see our own place with fresh eyes. Many of our lives are marked by transience and business. Despite living in close proximity to many, we often struggle to have any quality relationships. In our modern, busy world, how do we respond to Jesus' call to love our neighbor? Lynda's story is about her journey to deepen relationships, build friendships, and share faith in a new and challenging environment. She writes with an earthy realism that helps us think and makes us smile. This is not a how-to book, but it is encouraging, inspiring, and a little bit wonderful. It shows that it is possible to love our neighbor in a fragmented world and to build community one friendship at a time."
"If you have ever been curious about how to connect the love of God with the love of our actual neighbors, you should read this enchanting book. Lynda MacGibbon's winsome storytelling invites us into the journey of mutual transformation that so many of us are longing to experience. Better yet, she gently shows how these sacred opportunities are literally all around us."
"Crafting a space in downtown Toronto into small-town neighborliness is no small feat. Lynda's skyline-high vertical home challenged her to do just that but with an added focus on the invitation of the good news of the gospel. This book is a wonderful challenge to us all to be a people of welcome and creativity in making our faith real and inviting to our neighbors, wherever we may find ourselves."
Foreword by Michael Frost
1. Fran of the Eleventh Floor
2. Chasing a Question
3. Two Are Better than One
4. A Little Bit of Crazy
5. Opening My Door
6. Unfurling Our Stories
7. Pain and Pleasure
8. Making Gnocchi
9. Hugging Yolanda
10. Brunch with Jesus
11. Feasting with Babette
12. Joy and Sorrow
13. Love and Loneliness
14. Lost and Found
15. Beyond Acquaintances
16. Finding Forgiveness
17. Earnestly Asking
18. Dancing with Brian
19. Come for Dinner