Moving into My Own Neighborhood Part 3: Being a Neighbor Starts with Knowing My Neighbor
For the last couple of issues, I’ve been trying to figure out what it looks like to follow Jesus’ example from John 1. If you recall, in that chapter John describes how Jesus moved into our neighborhood. So, I’m trying to learn how to move into my neighborhood.
In part 1, I described a couple of neighbors I had encounters with, and impressions of, but didn’t really know. One of them was my neighbor across the back fence. All I knew about him was that he and his wife were constantly fighting, often late into the night. She eventually left and his late night fights were replaced by late night sessions around the fire pit in his back yard listening to music and commiserating with a group of friends. On those warm summer nights, the later it got, the louder they seemed.
I’ve learned his name is not, “the guy across the back fence.” His name is Rod (actually that is not his real name). His wife wasn’t his wife, but his girlfriend of 10 years. Curiously enough, she had a name too, Shirley (again, that’s not really it). Shirley didn’t leave him. They didn’t want to “break-up” but Rod couldn’t stand the fighting. So Shirley rented a place down the block so they could see each other when they wanted, but didn’t have to put up with each other all the time.
A couple of weeks ago, Rod was having one of his late night gatherings. Shirley showed up somewhat inebriated and belligerent. I don’t know the details, nor does Rod because he was in his backyard, but a scuffle occurred in the driveway, and Shirley fell and hit her head on the asphalt. The paramedics came and the police came. Shirley was taken to the hospital where she lay in a coma for a few days until she finally died.
Rod has been devastated. Not only has he lost someone who had been a significant part of his life, but, though he was not directly responsible, the fact that the fatal fall happened at his house has weighted him down with a nearly unbearable burden of guilt.
Most every day one of us will stick our head over the fence and ask how he’s doing. Sometimes we pass him vegetables from our garden or eggs from our chickens; I don’t know if he actually uses them, but he seems genuinely grateful that we’re giving them to him. Our son, Jacob, has hung out with Rod a couple of afternoons.
Jesus moved into our neighborhood--“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”—because he knows our name and our story. He came to bring grace into our lives--“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” I can no longer think of Rod as “the guy across the fence who has annoying parties.” Now I know his name and part of his devastating but all too human story. Now what?
I’m asking myself how I can bring grace into his life. I confess, I don’t know the answer to that yet. But I do know that I cannot bring anything without first being his neighbor. So, learning to know my neighbors is only the first step.
It seems my next step is to learn what it means to be a neighbor.