I guess if I'm trying to spend a month loving my neighbor, I should define who that includes.
I know you think I'm going to start with scripture here, but I'm not! I think the most basic description of who my neighbor is, and who I should spend this month loving, can be found this timeless song from my childhood.
Ok. Good start. The people that I meet each day.
Starting with my family. My kids. My husband. If I can't love on the ones I see from morning to night, I should not be worrying about loving anyone outside my front door. They are my ministry first.
Next, my ACTUAL neighbors. The people on my street, I am sad to say, have seen me in every state of dress (or undress) imaginable. They know things that cannot be shared on this blog. They are literally the closest people to my real life that exist. I know some of them must have been looking out their windows last night when I yelled in my scary momma bear voice at the kids who had run out the door in the dark toward the street. (My neighborhood has an impressive echo quality!) And yet for the first couple of years that we lived in this house, I only knew a couple of them. I'll get back to these guys, because at this point, I'm OBSESSED with them. They are going to be the bulk of this month for sure.
But who else? The guy in the McDonald's drive-thru? (Not that I would feed my kids that garbage. (I'm lying--I do! A lot!)) The girl in the Walmart checkout? The lady in front of you in line? The guy behind the counter at the gas station? The man with the sign on the side of the road? YES I have been praying the last few years that God would open my eyes to my neighbor. To his lost sheep who cross my direct path every day. Some of them I'll never meet again--like the guy today in line at QT.
He was short $.16 and ran to the back of the line to see if his friend could help him out. I had a quarter. He didn't want to take my quarter, but I insisted. He didn't know about my 31 days of loving my neighbor. I wasn't backing down. And I thought, does this count? Does passing a quarter to the guy in front of me in line make any kind of difference? I think it does. The quarter itself doesn't matter, but the act does. I can't tell you how many times tonight I've thought about that guy. Even prayed for him. A stranger. Because those tiny acts of loving your neighbor cause your lives to take the same path--if only for a few steps.
Jesus said (you knew I'd get to Him, right?) to love your neighbor as yourself. And when you do that, even in the tiniest way, you make that stranger into a real human person, as valuable and loved by God as you are. You acknowledge that. And people react. That guy in line must have thanked me 5 times--with words, with a smile, with a head nod. It bumped him off course a little bit, and it did the same to me. I wonder if he thought about it again later.
When the disciples asked Jesus who their neighbor was, he told them a story.
(I don't have to tell you how much Jesus loves a story, amiright?)
The man who was robbed got passed by the noblest do-gooders imaginable. They left him there for dead. And the ordinary Samaritan man, who most would look at with pity and shame, picked him up, got him help, gave him money, would have shared his cell phone number if he'd had one.
And at the end of the story, Jesus doesn't tell the disciples who their neighbor is. He asked who was a neighbor to the dying man. Not who the Samaritan's neighbor was. Who was the neighbor to the dying man?
And their answer? The one who showed mercy to him.
So to answer my own question, who is my neighbor? It's up to me to find them. I cross paths with them every day. And who is their neighbor?
the one who shows mercy.
the one who acknowledges their humanity.
the one who steps out of his own path to join the path of another, even if it's only to hand him a quarter.