“And who is my neighbor?”
— An expert in the law. Mark 10:29
I have had good neighbors and I have had those who were not so good. I have been a good neighbor and I have been a not-so-good neighbor. In my life it has tended to be split. The neighbor on one side has been great and the neighbor on the other side has been distant. There has also tended to be that neighbor who is always in distress and trauma often brought on by themselves or their children, but overall, they are nice people before, during, and after the storm.
Summer is the time for block parties and neighborhood barbecues (at Sunset, with the misters blowing, and in the shade). Summer is a great time to celebrate being human and sharing moments with those around us who come from different places, different perspectives, different cultures, and different experiences. The problem is that in this post-covid world, many of us have forgotten how to be a neighbor. One evening a few years ago, the darkness was illuminated by the flashing of sirens as a firetruck and an ambulance came to our neighbor’s house to the West. I walked over to see what had happened and the elderly gentleman next door had fallen and was unable to get up. I waited to see if there was anything I could do to help or if I could support the family in any way (their son and daughter-in-law live next door). The old gentleman was helped and then was able to stay home. My wife delivered some home cooked food the next day and then life continued as normal. I guess it sounds like we were good neighbors, but I don’t really think so. We really only responded to a crisis that was hard to ignore.
Many times, at schools, I have seen children get in severe trouble just to get their parents attention. All of the sudden, meetings, deadlines, emails, business trips and sales don’t seem as important. Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t take a crisis for us to look up from our treadmills? The neighbor who fell down is a great guy but honestly, we don’t know them very well. They appreciated the food and the walk-over but I think welcome waves, talks over the t-posts, (there are acres between us), musings at the mail-box, humor over hamburgers, and hugs at holidays would be much better.
The expert in the law quoted above asked Jesus who counted as his neighbor. The expert was seeking to justify himself and “neighbor” did not count everyone in his world. Jesus told a story that we refer to as the good Samaritan. A man was walking down from Jerusalem to Jericho. “Down” is correct because that trail is only 17 miles but involves a 3700-foot drop in elevation. The man was attacked by robbers and left naked and half-dead. Good religious folks (I didn’t say spiritual) saw him and passed by on the other side of the road. Finally, a Samaritan (folks not in the expert of the laws circle of friends) passed by and stopped. He helped him, nursed him, put him on his donkey and put him in a hotel at his own expense. He also promised to come back to check on him. Jesus asked, “Which of the three was his neighbor?” The expert gave the correct answer:
“The one who had mercy on him.”
Being a good neighbor means to be aware. It means to be open to all people and being willing to stop what you are doing in your busy day and spend time with someone. Being a neighbor means being willing to share your life with another person or family. As a faith-based bunch of folks, I encourage us all to slow down and have a block party where ever we go. Take the time to stop by someone’s office and visit a bit. Invite someone to lunch or for a Coke after work. See the lawn that has been neglected and start your mower. See the dejected look on a colleague’s face and stop. By all means, let us be great neighbors to all of our care-givers! Spend time with “neighbors” and let’s get rid of the covid curse of isolation.
Oh. One more point. The expert in the law mentioned “mercy.” That means not getting what you deserve (like when my daughter went mudding in her new truck and I just laughed at her having to do all that cleaning.) So what if the neighbor has never asked you over? Go first. Who cares if they have been evasive for years. Ask anyway. You might get rejected but it won’t kill you. So what if the colleague seems cliquish – break the clique. What if nobody comes to the office anymore? Ask everyone to come in for a day. What if you are too busy to connect with a neighbor? I would suggest you redirect your priorities.
I loved Summer as a kid. I left home at daybreak and came home at dark – sometimes. I played football in the morning, mowed grass for some old lady, spent my earnings at the pharmacy lunch counter, took a nap in the shade with a coke in a little bottle, played baseball for a while and then jumped in the creek. I had nothing but buddies and tolerated girls. Life was slow and fantastic and each day had it’s own adventures.
I encourage you to be a neighbor this Summer and beyond. Yes, you will bless other people, but not nearly as much as you bless yourself.
Just FYI – After his event, Jesus went and had a block party at his friends house!