I’m loving… loving my neighbors!
An expert in religious law questioned Jesus, seemingly testing him, about how to live. Instead of telling the expert, Jesus asked what the law says. The expert responded with the correct reply which included “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10: 27 NLT).
Then, the expert asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan which concludes with one who loves his neighbor is one who shows mercy. Throughout the Bible there are references and admonitions about loving our neighbors and tells us who they are.
So, how do we love our neighbors? We may love those we’ve never seen and know nothing about, through prayer or charitable donations. Some of us have sponsored children from other countries and come to know and love them. We may love those closer to us when a need is made known or when a congratulatory word is applicable. Maybe even a smile will do it.
Yes, we can love our neighbors from a distance. My contact with many neighbors has often been greeting them if they’re outside when I walk around the neighborhood, a short friendly conversation, and even getting to know a few who have children playing outside, a dog, or when they’re working in the yard. You get to know a little more when they have a yard sale.
I have lived where a neighbor would have a drop-in at Christmastime, another might have a jewelry party (or another kind), or even an occasional block party. What we’re doing in our neighborhood has developed and grown since one person decided to make a list of neighbors.
We had experienced a couple of outside get-togethers, and afterwards a neighbor-man knocked on doors and asked if we’d like to be on a list. He typed the names, along with physical and email addresses. When someone moved away or moved in, he made changes on the list and brought them to us.
Then… after a truck break-in, a neighbor emailed us all which led to a few having a meeting with police about safety and the police saying they would drive through our neighborhood at random times. The email writer took the initiative to plan a summer back yard get-together. I responded that my son (he and I are housemates) was recuperating from prostate cancer surgery and if he felt like it, we would attend. About 20 neighbors attended. Of course, they asked my son how he was and he’d say the usual, “fine” or “all right.”
Next… after a few neighbors getting to know each other better, stopping to talk when anyone’s outside, led to several possibilities including a fall get-together. That was held last week in a neighbor’s back yard and about 30 attended. Those who wanted to, brought a dish of food. Our “business” session included our planning a late October joint yard sale. Stemming from our earlier talks, we decided on a Christmas Progressive Dinner. I opted for the dessert part since I want to be last and have Santa (if my son will do it) give all a copy of my new book release of articles written by 47 authors, Remembering Christmas.
My son mumbled to me, “Why does everyone keep asking how I’m feeling?” I laughed and reminded him that all some of them knew about him was his cancer surgery. So, I suggested we print short bios of all neighbors who are willing to participate. We will get to know more, including whether they’re retired (and from what), any expertise, anyone expecting a baby, where they work, where they’re from (since we are in the mountains of western North Carolina, we get a lot of Floridians who move here or visit for a season).
Of course there are a few neighbors who haven’t come to the get-togethers. That provides opportunity to approach them and instead of asking questions, just let them know we missed them and they’re welcome. One of my neighbors who is very friendly with me, was reluctant to attend the get-togethers, so I asked if she’d come and help with desserts at Christmastime. She was delighted. Some just need a little more encouragement than others. And if some never want to come or participate, that’s good to know too.
Perhaps some neighborhoods aren’t conducive to this, but just a block party can be fun and informative. However, I feel so blessed to be getting to know these people and greet them by name. It’s a good feeling for conversation to go from “How are you?” and answer “Fine” to asking more pertinent questions, or talking about more personal things whether it’s about a house or yard or family or a recipe.
And of course, these kind of things can be done with various groups, not just in neighborhoods. And we can even form our own groups of people who have common, or uncommon, interests.
So… who is my neighbor? Well, aside from being anyone and everyone, it’s people with names with who are sort of like family (should be) and it feels good. Knowing and accepting all the differences and being able to ask advice, or give it, or ask more than “How are you?” feels like I’m beginning to know my neighbors. And love them.