Who can forget the wonderful Mr. Rogers on television asking in his oh-so-friendly voice, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” We all wanted to be his neighbor!
I learned one of my greatest lessons about being a neighbor from my young son, Brennan.
We had new neighbors move in next door. The woman, Susan, was confined to a wheelchair with Multiple Sclerosis. We introduced our four sons to her and apologized in advance for the havoc that would be created by our children. Susan took a shine to Brennan, our second son who was about eight or nine years old at the time.
One day Susan called, “I need a little help. Do you think Brennan would be willing to come over and help me reach some things?” I asked Brennan and he was very excited to be the “big man” to go help our neighbor. Off he went and was gone for several hours. He told me all kinds of stories that Susan had shared with him as they worked.
The next day Brennan asked, “Do you think Susan could use some help?”
“I’m sure she could,” I replied and off he went.
That began years of Brennan helping our neighbor as a sweet relationship grew between a middle-aged disabled woman and a young boy. They were good neighbors to each other.
It has been an interesting experience moving from California where we lived for 32 years to Utah. One of the most dramatic differences was in our neighborhood.
We went from a neighborhood where people drove in and out of their garages with barely a wave to a neighborhood that has multiple get-togethers, everyone waves, and everyone talks to each other. Dramatic difference and I have to say I love it.
Jesus taught us that everyone is our neighbor in the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan. After he relates the story, he asks, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Luke 10:36-37.
If Jesus instructs us to do likewise, what do we do to be good neighbors?
- Notice people. The Samaritan actually paid attention and noticed the man in need. We can notice our neighbors—wave to them, ask them about their day, pay attention to their needs.
- Stop and interact. This does take time out of our day. But even the smallest interactions, “Hey Susie! I noticed you got that old tree out. Your yard looks great!” can make a difference. Even a few minutes can bind us as neighbors and create a web of love in our neighborhoods.
- Help. This requires sacrifice. It requires us to go beyond the cursory comment as we drive by, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” The Samaritan didn’t say that as he walked by. He stopped and he helped! We can bring in their garbage cans, pick up their mail, shovel their sidewalk before they get up. There are so many ways we can help.
- Love. Beyond helping, the Samaritan cared so lovingly for the man in need. This requires some time and effort to constantly extend love to those near us. Just that mental thought, “I love you” will radiate.
As we go and do likewise, we will build neighborhoods that flow with love and goodness. Won’t you be my neighbor?