We all know we should love our neighbors as ourselves. But, it’s hard to love someone you don’t know. Read on to find a few easy ideas to get out there and know your neighbors better. And please comment to share ideas you’ve found helpful in this area. Soon we’ll all be singing, ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.’
A Surprising Neighbor
We have lots of definitions for the word, ‘Neighbor,’ these days. When Jesus was asked exactly ‘who’ a neighbor was, He answered with a long story with a surprising twist. The person least likely (in the minds of Jesus’ listeners) to be a good neighbor was the only one who even tried.
When I think of Jesus’ command to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ I’m challenged and humbled. I know I don’t even love my husband, my children, and my parents as much as I love myself…much less the neighbor that isn’t ‘attached’ to me. I’m not naturally good at loving my neighbor but I’m excited that the weather is growing warmer and the opportunities to be ‘neighborly’ are plentiful.
During our few short years of marriage, my husband and I have found that when it comes to loving others, proximity matters. It’s easiest to naturally connect with those who live and work near the areas where we live and work. And yet, the funny thing is, many of us barely know the people with whom we share fences, pavement, and even walls. Honestly, it’s hard to LOVE those people who we don’t KNOW. And if we don’t see our neighbors lying on the side of the road (like the one in Jesus’ story), we often don’t know them well enough to discover how we can love them well.
So, here’s a quick list of 5 ways to get to know your neighbor…with the hopes that as we know our neighbors more, we’ll reach out in love to them in the days ahead.
- Be outside as much as possible-in the front yard. We live in a townhouse and have a very steep backyard so I’ve basically learned this one by coincidence. But, it’s amazing how much more we naturally bump into our neighbors by hanging out in the front yard. Walks around the block are great but just sitting in the yard provides great opportunity to visit with neighbors as they come in and out. Think about tasks you’re doing inside and try to find ways to do them outside.
- Borrow and share with your neighbors. This idea is straight from Randy Alcorn. He points out that many times every home on a block owns the same tools. And yet these tools are only used every now and again. If you buy some hedge clippers, a tall ladder, a great nozzle for the waterhose, a bicycle pump-offer their use to your neighbors. And, if you know your neighbors have something that you don’t (or even if you’re not sure)-ask! One of the best ways for Christians to be more approachable with our neighbors is to seem less self-sufficient and able to accept help from others.
- Celebrate the seasons. Make little cards or treats or something that celebrates small holidays like Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, or Memorial Day. Knock on your neighbor’s doors and just say hi as you deliver the treat.
- Be involved in neighborhood affairs. I do this one poorly as I often feel too stretched. But, I know this is a great way to be TEAM with your neighbors and to give your resources for the improvement of the whole neighborhood.
- Use the shops, parks, and businesses near your home. Sometimes, its tempting for us to head across town especially if there’s a park or store that’s more attractive. But, bumping into your neighbors in places outside of your neighborhood is a great way to increase familiarity and provide new ways of interaction.
Okay, it’s your turn. I know many of you are much better at being neighborly than I am. I know, because I’ve heard some of your stories. So, please share your wisdom and experience and methods that have worked to help you love your neighbor as yourself.