WHO IS MY NEIGH­BOR?

Activated - - NEWS - By Iris Richard

I was read­ing the fa­mil­iar story of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan1 from a well-il­lus­trated car­toon Bi­ble to a group of eight- to nine-year-old Sun­day school stu­dents. It ended with the ques­tion Je­sus asked: “‘Which of these three do you think was a neigh­bor to the man who fell into the hands of rob­bers?’ The ex­pert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Je­sus told him, ‘Go and do like­wise.’”

2 One boy with a head full of red hair and a freck­led face asked, “How do I find a neigh­bor that needs my help?”

This ques­tion got me think­ing! True, it isn’t ev­ery day that we come across a beaten per­son ly­ing on the street, if ever, or not of­ten that we wit­ness some­one be­ing robbed or mis­treated, and my phys­i­cal neigh­bor rarely needs some­thing from me that I know of.

Ex­plor­ing the thought fur­ther, I pic­tured one of my rou­tine days, which went some­thing like this:

Half an hour of early morn­ing re­flec­tion and prayer, fol­lowed by some ex­er­cise and a quick break­fast. Get­ting out the door on time to beat the rush-hour traf­fic is of­ten a scram­ble. Even if I’m on time for ap­point­ments, most ev­ery­one in our African city isn’t, of­ten leav­ing me run­ning late for my next ap­point­ment, which forces me to join the cir­cle of late­com­ers. In turn it leaves me dis­grun­tled, with lit­tle com­pas­sion to stop and place a coin in the hand of the bedrag­gled el­derly beg­gar woman at the street cor­ner or the man in the wheelchair with stumps in­stead of legs sit­ting by the road with his hand out­stretched. I’d rushed by. Were those my neigh­bors? I’d moved from one event to the next with lit­tle time to an­swer an SMS from a friend who needed a few min­utes of my time. A lis­ten­ing ear might have meant the world to him. Was he my neigh­bor?

I’d glanced over an email from an old ac­quain­tance who ex­plained how his life had taken a down­ward turn and that he needed some­one to talk to. This has to wait un­til later, I’d de­cided, as I turned to press­ing busi­ness emails. Could he have been my neigh­bor?

When I’d reached my car in the park­ing lot later that day, the man parked next to me was fran­ti­cally turn­ing over his engine, try­ing to get his car started, but to no avail. It seemed he was in need of a jumper ca­ble. Yikes, that had to be com­ing from some Good Sa­mar­i­tan, but not me. My jumper ca­ble was deeply buried in the trunk of my car, un­der some sup­plies which I needed to de­liver to one of our projects on my way home. Surely he isn’t my neigh­bor, I’d thought as I jumped be­hind the wheel with a sorry look. In any case, I was on my way to an aid project and was run­ning late.

Af­ter re­flect­ing on this day, I re­al­ized that each day brings along a neigh­bor or two, and how easy it is to brush them aside and go on with “im­por­tant” busi­ness. I also con­tem­plated the many times I had ben­e­fited from a friendly Good Sa­mar­i­tan who’d de­cided that I was a

neigh­bor and reached out with a help­ing hand when I was in a tight spot. So I de­cided to pay more at­ten­tion to the lit­tle deeds of kind­ness and the small niceties I could ex­tend to the neigh­bors who might come along the path of my busy days.

The very next day, I was tested on this de­ci­sion when a friend called, ask­ing if I could babysit her tod­dler for an hour while she went for a den­tal ap­point­ment. I’d planned to take that Satur­day off, but re­mem­ber­ing my res­o­lu­tion, I said yes, trust­ing that I could spare an hour and still have enough time left for re­lax­ation af­ter­ward. I also dropped a note to my sad ac­quain­tance and pressed a coin into the hand of the old lady at the cor­ner. Thank­fully, no­body needed my jumper ca­ble that day.

There were other neigh­bors through­out the com­ing weeks, and there will al­ways be plenty more in the fu­ture. Even a smile can go a long way, as well as a help­ing hand lent, a coin spared, a bag car­ried, an en­cour­ag­ing SMS sent, a meal shared, a mo­ment of un­di­vided at­ten­tion given, or that over­due phone call made.

It’s sur­pris­ing to see the count­less lit­tle at­ti­tudes and deeds that can im­prove the world around us, if we pay at­ten­tion and re­mem­ber the Good Sa­mar­i­tan and ask God reg­u­larly, “Who is my neigh­bor?”

3

Truly I tell you, what­ever you did for one of the least of these broth­ers and sis­ters of mine, you did for me. — Je­sus, Matthew 25:40 NIV Iris Richard is a coun­selor in Kenya, where she has been ac­tive in com­mu­nity and vol­un­teer work since 1995.

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