Week of December 16, 2018

In last Sunday’s sermon I mentioned how we may know a neighbor both figuratively and literally in our lives. The reference was to those of us who currently do some kind of ministry for someone in our community. But I said that we often have more than one neighbor in our lives. Recently, I was reminded of how important it is to remember this.

I have two neighbors beside my house, one to each side. One of them I know on a first-name basis; she’s in my cell phone, my kids shovel her walk, and I helped her clear a fallen tree in her yard. (Note to self: you need to finish that job.) When I got divorced, she sent over a plate of brownies. The couple to the other side, I know less well. We say hello to each other and I admire their care of their lawn and their dogs enjoy running and barking along the shared fence line with mine.

I have another neighbor, though, across the street. We have not had much of a relationship at all. I could look out the large window in my living room to his house and see him sitting on his front stoop in a chair, or leading his small dog across his carefully tended lawn. He was an older man, and in the eight years that I have lived in my house I have never spoken to him. About a week ago, though, my living room window was alight with red and blue as ambulances and firetrucks parked outside his home. I watched through the window as they loaded him on a gurney into the back of the ambulance, and noted with concern that the ambulance left slowly, no longer running its siren.

On Sunday Mandy remarked to me that, in light of my comments about having more than one neighbor, that I had never even checked to see what had happened to the man, never wandered over and availed myself professionally or personally as a friendly fellow resident of the neighborhood. So on Sunday afternoon, I did, ready to warmly offer whatever care they would be willing to receive from a vaguely familiar stranger.

But the house was dark, and no one answered the door. It’s remained dark this past week, and I keep glancing over there in the evenings to see signs of a light in the window, or a small dog walking the lawn. There are many reasons to embrace the call to love our neighbor(hood), and I was reminded that one of them is that we do not have all the time in the world to do so.

I think I’ll learn the names of the people next to me this week, just in case.

Yours in Christ,
Father Rob+