Trouble Loving My Neighbor in Suburbia

A Muslim friend once gave me a pair of hand-crafted crosses as a thank you gift. A Hindu family waited on mine, hand and foot, standing as we ate huge bowls of scrumptious vegetarian dishes from their kitchen table. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by Israelis and Palestinians and the recipient of amazing hospitality by Italians, Croats, and Germans. As I look around my corner of suburbia, I still don’t quite know how to love my neighbor well.

We wave and holler, “Hey, how are you?” across sprinklers and green lawns. We get each other’s mail and help each other mend fences from time to time. But more often than not, we don’t even see our neighbors as garage doors conveniently shut us off from troubling ourselves over someone we barely know.

I’ve walked past a neighbor on a stroll, not even realizing it was the woman who lived directly across the street. I’ve ignored the front door bell on more than one occasion and even hid in my own house from eyes peering in the window.

Did you know loving the alien is mentioned 52 times in Biblical Levite texts? (source) That challenges my socks off.

When my kids were little, they used to give away their most prized toys to everyone they knew. Without reservation. In kindergarten, my daughter donated a set of wooden animals I bought her in South Africa. She gave them freely to her classroom prize bin. Mentally, I still have a hard time letting go of those possessions, because I bought them specifically for her. But she intuitively knew what I continually miss: we bless when we give our best.

The neighbors who have welcomed me from around the world did so because they have all been aliens. They have known what it is to be displaced and alone. Sometimes I sit on my front step with open hands and ask God to give me eyes to see beyond doors and smiles.

A Resource for Better Neighboring

Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community by Amelia Rhodes

What helps you be a loving neighbor?

I wrote this post with my free-writing Five Minute Friday friends. Our one-word prompt was Neighbor, and they embody the word so well. 

What’s Next? New September Series

Uncertainty is a huge barrier to neighboring for me as well. Join me here Mondays in September for a series about questions, doubts, crossing categories, trust, and joy: What’s Next? Uncovering Joy in Uncertain Times. Check out the first post.

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September 1, 2017