Love Your (actual) Neighbors

2020 has been particularly challenging for many of us. So, let’s end this year on a brighter note.

Seven years ago, Carla and I were at a conference listening to a speaker talk about loving your neighbor. This topic is usually brought up as a way to encourage us to care for the poor, elderly, disenfranchised, etc. But this speaker was talking about his actual, on his own block, neighbors. Then I began to think, “How many neighbors do I know by name?” Answer: 4 of 19.

When I grew up, we knew all our neighbors – everyone on our street. Sure, the parents didn’t necessarily spend time hanging out together, although some did, but we all knew each others names and when there was a need, we knew to contact a neighbor. How that has changed. It seems like its easier to be anonymous than known these days.

So following the speaker’s presentation, Carla and I decided to deliver Christmas cookies to our neighbors that year, and we’ve done so each year since. We simply knocked on the door, introduced ourselves and gave them our holiday treats. Last year, we collected names and contact info for those who agreed to share (and nearly all did) so we could be in touch in the future if there was a need.

I thought this would be a good idea for others, but God has a funny way of using every angle of a circumstance, even when we believe we’re doing something good for others, he may also change us in the process. In the past seven years, I have waved at more neighbors, had more conversations and smiled at more people on my block that in the previous 12 years of living here. My heart – and attention – is now more on my neighbors than ever before.

So, we’re doing it again. Packing trays of treats (following food safety standards due to COVID-19), knocking on doors and wishing a Merry Christmas beneath our masked faces to who ever answers. Just maybe, through our modest effort to love our neighbors, God will make a way into their hearts.

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