Loving Neighbors

Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Our family grew up in what was known as an inter-war house, which meant that it was built between 1919-1939. Itís hard to describe because Iíve never seen anything like it over here in the United States. It was a large bungalow where four families lived. Two families, like my own, lived downstairs with front doors and small gardens. The other two families lived upstairs with side doors and side gardens. Everyone shared the massive backyard, which was usually used as a common area for drying the laundry on clothes lines. Needless to say, everyone lived in close proximity and as our family was the only young ones in the building, we got into a lot of trouble from our neighbors for being too loud, too boisterous, and too wild.

One particular neighbor seemed to hate my sisters and brothers because she was always scolding us. She never smiled and was constantly criticizing my mom, who was doing her best to raise six kids. Eventually, because of all the pressure from this neighbor, my mother cracked and went absolutely crazy throwing things all around the house and cursing loudly to the ceiling. I was there at the time and thought that my mom was going to kill the woman upstairs. Thatís when her mental illness seemed to start and, to this date, it has been the saddest day of my life.

For most of my teenage years, I found it hard to trust or respect any of my neighbors. I thought that the upstairs family had caused my motherís nervous breakdown. It was only years later that I finally realized she had been suffering from schizophrenia since she was a troubled teenager. All that my neighbor did was bring her mental condition to the surface. No one was really to blame. It just happened.

As Christians, we are called to be good neighbors, but in these days of privacy and seclusion, weíre all making it very hard for people to get to know one another. Maybe thatís why we feel lonely and vulnerable at times. Perhaps as we isolate ourselves and do our own thing, weíre losing our connections with real people, real neighbors, and real home owners next door.

So this Christmas, Iím going to try, if the weather allows it, to sit on my front porch and say ďHiĒ to my neighbors. I guess if Jesus could leave heaven and be on the front porch of humanity, I should try to do the same. Who knows, perhaps then I might just experience the real meaning of Christmas.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all talk about being good neighbors but we donít really practice it. We all would like to live in a world where people greet each other and share peace with one another, but we donít want it to start with us. Help us to overcome our shyness and enable us to reach out to those around us, who are our neighbors and who are Godís children, too. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart traqair@aol.com
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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