lend me some sugar, i am your neighbor

this is a post I put up on my writer's group site a week or so ago.

When Jesus was asked to clear up the whole “who is your neighbor” question. He answered in true Jesus fashion. With a story. The Good Samaratian. A tale of an expected enemy caring for an injured man. I have heard lots of takes and sermon on this parable but all of them are about loving not just the person across the street, or your friends, or the people the same color as you, or the people that believe what you believe but love that is bigger and broader than any of the labels we like to put on people. Love that doesn’t always come naturally.

Lately, I have been reading a few books that are fleshing out some of the conflicts going on across the globe. Last week it was, A Long Way Gone: memoirs of a boy soldier by Ishmael Beah. It is a firsthand account of an orphaned boy struggling for survival amidst the recent conflicts in Sierre Leone. Although the civil conflict has been officially declared over, there are still unspeakable things going on in Africa and millions of residents whose lives will never return back to “normal”. Currently I am wrapping up Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Greg is working in Pakistan and Afganistan to build schools, especially for young girls. He is single handedly fighting terrorism with books instead of bombs. Reading these accounts has made me question what contributions am I making?

Ironically, I am supposed to post this week about “loving my neighbor”. Most weeks I would think Jesus was trying to tell me that these stories going on across the globe aren’t quite as far removed as I might think. These are my neighbors and now that I know their stories I can’t ignore them.

I won’t ignore that conviction, or at least that won’t be my intentions but a stronger conviction resonates within me when I try to come up with a blog posting about loving my neighbor. I don’t know them. You know, my real across-the-street neighbors. I think God wants me to tackle my own street before/or in addition to becoming an activist for a cause across the globe.

Growing up I knew everyone’s name on my street. Sadly, most or them were older and didn’t have kids my own age but that didn’t stop me from slipping into their house for a snack and knocking on their door trying to sell them my girl scout cookies. Even in college there were probably 20+ girls on my dorm hall and I knew almost every one of them. I could have told you all where they were from. The brand of shampoo they left in the showers and most of their majors, who was in what sorority and who had boyfriends back home.

In comparison, I have lived in my current house for almost 6 years. There are only 9 houses on my cul-de-sac and I have only stepped foot in 3 of them. I know less than half of their names. I know only what my immediate next door neighbors do for a living. I have occasionally asked to borrow an egg. I have babysat a time or two in a pinch. I have a picked up mail once or twice. But I am worlds away from community. Somehow the task of getting to know my neighbors seems harder than sending a check to Pakistan. It is more impressive to tell my friends or people at my church about my passion for children in Africa, than it is to pause to chat with my neighbors while my hands are full of groceries and trying to chase my three year old out of the street.

A question that should be paired with “who is my neighbor?” is “do you know them?”. Whether they are across the street or across the globe. What are their needs? What is their story? I can’t begin to love my neighbors until I know them.

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