Growing up in a rural county our nearest neighbor was a 1/4 mile away.? Before she and her husband built their house and moved in our nearest neighbor was more like a half mile away. We could hear their rooster crow in the morning but we couldn’t see their house and rarely saw them. Occasionally we would watch their animals while they were out of town but we didn’t really visit back and forth.
Later as my siblings and I got older we would work for some of the neighbors, and my brother rode bikes and three-wheelers with a few of them but we didn’t really know them. Our lives and friendships were based much more around the church we attended and our local homeschool support group.
I’ve wondered though if that should have been different. If we should have spent more of our time getting to know the people who lived around us and whom we lived around. Granted some of them were fairly dysfunctional. A lot of the children weren’t really used to a stable home environment, and for many of those children the lack of a stable environment was at least in part because their parents hadn’t experienced one as children and didn’t know what a warm, loving family home looked or felt like.
We were neighbors in terms of physical proximity but we didn’t really know each other or know how to help each other. In fact in some ways we didn’t even speak the same language.
Living here: in an older city neighborhood, where people sit on their porches at night and walk across the street to talk and catch up on the neighborhood news, keeps bring it home to me.
Am I a good neighbor? Am I willing to put aside the thing I’m doing to answer the need of someone in my community?
Do I know the people in my neighborhood well enough to know who might need help? Or who I should call on for help?
Being a neighbor takes time (a scarce commodity around here), and time is what we are called to give. The good Samaritan did give his money, bandages and oil to the injured man, but first he stopped, looked and listened. Only after he knew what resources were needed did he offer them. Do I take the time to know the people in my “community” so that I know what to offer them? Do you?
It’s so easy to enter my little world of schedule, routine, school and garden, raising children and allow those good uses of time to isolate me from the larger world. I can even tell myself that I am doing this for God (See God, I really love you I’m spending all my time on raising a family for you. See how worn out I am for you?) But what has He called us to?
Thou shalt love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.
The two thoughts are connected: I love and serve God by loving and serving my neighbor, all of my neighbors, not just the ones who are easy, not just in the convenient times, but whenever there is a need, I reach out and serve. That service certainly begins in the home, but it must reach out beyond our door to those in need. Love-in-action becoming neighborliness.