In her bold, insightful spiritual memoir My Vertical Neighborhood, Lynda MacGibbon explores what it means to “love your neighbor” in a diverse, cosmopolitan city.
After living most of her forty-nine years in eastern Canada, MacGibbon sold her Cape Cod home on the outskirts of Moncton to move into a nondescript high-rise in Toronto, overlooking Lake Ontario. Though she relocated for work, she saw the move as a call to “open the door to strangers who were neighbors.”
MacGibbon and a friend began hosting weekly dinners. Over time, they added a writers’ group and a weekly Bible study to their meetings. As she learned to free herself “from the fear of inviting strangers into my life,” her circle grew to include a wide range of neighbors: Croatians and Colombians; fifty-something Fran, whose smile and jewelry sparkled; and handsome Brian, a gay man with platinum blond hair and flip-flops. The group’s activities led to deepening bonds among the neighbors, all described in lucid detail: butter tarts, borscht, and gnocchi in shared meals; Christmas pajama parties; dances at nightclubs; and the search for a beloved parrot.
MacGibbon’s Christian faith is apparent throughout, and the book includes frequent biblical references. Still, she was determined not to impose her beliefs on others, or to limit her friendships because of them. In meeting people where they were, she discovered more about herself, and about the importance of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and vulnerability: “I’d come to understand that loving my neighbors was about a posture of preparedness, a readiness to cross a threshold; about being present to people and allowing them to be present to me.”
In a time marked by division and distrust, My Vertical Neighborhood is a gentle, thoughtful meditation on the value of opening the door, inviting people in, and celebrating together.
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