Sunday, July 22, 2012

Won't you be my neighbor?

 Beyond the Mr. Rogers Mentality   
     A few of the recent daily reflections by the late Henri Nouwen, one of my all-time favorite writers, about what it means to be someone’s neighbor have gotten me thinking.  In the e-mail reflection I received July 20, 2012, from the Henri Nouwen Society is a wonderful definition of what it means to be someone’s neighbor.  Usually we think of the people who live around us as our neighbors, and if considering the question from a Christian standpoint, we often think of every person as our neighbor, especially those suffering most in mind, body, and/or spirit, but I like this meaning even more. 

Real Life Examples
     The slogan for a popular insurance company actually says a lot: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”  My husband Kevin is definitely a good neighbor.  He always says hi to the people in our building, usually knows their names, and asks how they’re doing.  If someone’s in a bind, and Kevin can offer assistance, he does.  Being aware of and sensitive to the needs of the people around him is one of the things Kevin can do really well.  Not only does he pick up on what’s needed because he actually listens to people, but he also is quick to offer help to meet the need. 

Bridging the Gap Between People
     Are we really in solidarity with the people whom we keep at arm’s length?  I’d have to say no, we’re not.  (Henri Nouwen suggests the same answer in the meditation here as well as in this reflection.) If I assume from the bumper stickers on your car, the Likes on your Facebook wall, the posts on your blog...that we have completely opposite views on politics, religion, economics, morality, ethics...will I make the effort to get to know you and connect?  I guess that depends.  If I find out someone has been hurt, is sick, suffering, and/or in need, then my first response tends to be one of concern and compassion.   
     Unlike the other people who walk by the man they see on the side of the road without stopping to help, the Good Samaritan (and most of the people I know, if not all of them) would at least stop to see if they could do something. 
     Generally getting involved in someone else’s crisis is messy, inconvenient, and in some cases even traumatizing, but it’s what God calls us to do when we see a person suffering and it is within our capability to alleviate that pain even a little.

A Connection is Made
     I spoke with the friend on Friday who connected me a while ago with a young women who was expecting and in need of support.  Interestingly enough, while I was over at their house this week, our friend’s mother was helping another woman from Kenya make a popular dish from their region.  Both women had come to the baby shower we had for the young woman who was expecting and in need of support.  Actually, the two of them were making some of the same Kenyan food we’d had for that celebration.  They aren’t blood relatives, but they really treat each other as family.
     When I got ready to leave our friend’s father called to his wife in Swahili that his daughter was leaving.  (He translated for me after he said it; I don’t know Swahili.)  She and the other woman both came out from the kitchen and gave me a hug. 
Who you gonna call?
     Around the time I was leaving, a neighbor who lives across the street called my friend because he’d cut his hand and needed a ride to the ER.  My friend dropped everything and immediately headed out asking us only which hospital would be the best to take him to for care.    
Redifining Neighbor
     That’s what it means to be a neighbor: extending your hospitality, your dwelling place, your food, your possessions, and more importantly, your time, love, compassion, attention, and affection to anyone whom God puts in your path.  Being a neighbor means you make room for them in your life, in your heart, and in your prayers.   
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