Who Is Our Neighbor?


January 3, 2012 by eneubauer

I thought this to be an appropriate post on the feast day of – The Most Holy Name of Jesus: Enjoy…

Today, as I walked into preschool at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish with my 4 year old, she asked me to pick her up hold her.  Instead of trying to manage my bags, lunch and other miscellaneous bits of paper in addition to my daughter I decided to give her what she wanted…my full attention.  She told me that by wearing her backpack it would make it easier, on both of us, to hold her.  Of course I grabbed her, gave her a big squeeze and began the short walk into the building.

About half way in to school I asked, “Why do you want me to hold you?”  She replied, “Because I love you.”  For the rest of the walk in and the early part of my morning I reflected on that request and her reasoning.  I reflected on that statement because I believe children have a wonderful sense of what is natural to man seeing life through an unfiltered, untainted lens.  What my 4 year old really wanted was the reassurance that I loved her, and by holding her close to me, a sense of connection.  Love and a sense of being included in community were at the heart of her innocent request.

The importance of love and being connected to others in the context of community cannot be under estimated especially in a world that is hyper-connected (via technology) yet relationally distant.    In addition, the difficult economic times, increased disparity between the rich and poor, and life in a self-centered society only serves to magnify our desires for love and community.  The question becomes, “Are we willing to ignore the imagined importance of carrying in our briefcases and coffee cups in order that we may scoop up our children and show them the love and attention that they so desire?”  In addition, once we recognize the truth in and importance of our children’s requests are we then willing to SEE that these same desires live deep within our neighbor’s hearts?  Our neighbors who are struggling to make sense of life and are just crying out for a bit of our time and attention?

As I was making sense of my daughters request today I fell upon the scripture reference in Luke 10:25-37 with the title of, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”  This story seemed to fit and upon review pointed to some important principles that I think are worth mentioning.  The crux of the story is couched in a question that so many ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.”  Jesus replies, “What is written in the Law?”  The lawyer replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with your entire mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus responds, “…do this, and you will live.”

For many people of faith the statement about loving God is just not so hard.  Seriously, the reason why we have faith is that He gave it to us or inspired us towards faith as we sought to walk in a love relationship with him at some point in our lives.  That relationship, often times, is a journey that is pursued throughout one’s life.  Hence, the reason why we pray, read our bibles, attend (Mass) church, and participate in small group studies (etc).  However, I find the most difficult part of that statement in the directive to love our NEIGHBOR as we love ourselves.  In addition, this two-fold commandment comes with an ending (two-part) admonition – “do THIS and you will live” and later in the story, “Go and DO likewise.”

See, in our me centered society – where the focus is what is best for the individual, the challenge to love our NEIGHBOR as ourselves is not easy.  First, many of us don’t know our neighbors hence we become disconnected from the fact that we have neighbors.  Second, we are so busy (distracted by technology, busy lifestyles, climbing the corporate ladder) that we cannot hear the silent cries of the hurting that is all around us.  Third, we are so focused on what is best or ideal for us that we hold onto our resources with an iron grip.  We can’t even imagine what it would be like to live with less (materially) so that others can simply live.  We have encouraged the consumer in such a way that we live to consume or simply to maintain what our consumption has acquired.  The antidote – admit that there is a problem.  The Gospel declares a different vision for life, its purpose and meaning.  Ask the one that you worship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to help you see beyond yourself so that need of others become apparent.  We have to realize that meeting needs of others is not hard, will not tax you like material consumption does, and can literally change the course of the life you touch.

Here are some practical things you and your family can do:

  • Bag your lunch and give away the savings to the local food pantry
  • Stop, walk into the office of a co-worker or house of a “friend” and just take a moment to listen.  Needs are all around us!
  • Throw your CHANGE into a jar and give it away at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to someone in financial straits – NO STRINGS ATTACHED.
  • Encourage the long-term unemployed to DREAM, return to school and begin again.  Let them know that you BELIEVE in them.
  • Sponsor someone who needs financial assistance to go and attend a financial boot camp or seminar.
  • Do for another what has already been done for you!

2 thoughts on “Who Is Our Neighbor?

  1. Cathy Hoffmeister says:

    What a beautiful morning you had! Thank you for the reminders … I enjoyed reading this!

  2. jeri says:

    You have a gift for looking for the sacred in the ordinary (one of my favorite things to do). I love your practical suggestions for making a difference. Here’s mine to add:
    – a simple start to each day…ask God to “help me be the person I need to be today…and recognize for whom I need to be that person”

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