Most religious teachers say my neighbor is every single person no matter his class, age, race, religion or political view -- often interpreted as the stranger. But many of us leave out the most important neighbor — the family.
Who is my neighbor? My Sunday School teacher says my neighbor is every single person no matter their class, age, race, religion or political view, often interpreted as the stranger. But I think my teacher, and many of us, left out the most important neighbor — the family.
Who is my neighbor?
Jesus was asked by a lawyer, “And who is my neighbour?”(Luke 10:29) He responded with the parable of The Good Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans and likewise the Samaritans hated the Jews. This was clear because many Jews went out of their way to by-pass Samaria on their way to or from Judea and Galilee.
In the parable, a man was beaten, robbed and left for dead. The first traveler to see him was a Jewish priest. He walked on, leaving the man on the road. The second traveler, a Levite (they work in the temple and are an important part of Jewish religion), did the same. The third, a Samaritan, stopped and helped the man by caring for his wounds and taking him to a nearby inn with the promise to pay the man’s remaining bill the next time he came through.
Since middle-school, I've understood my neighbor to mean the person who lives next door and any stranger I might meet. Recently I came to the realization this parable includes family members.
Why are they left out of common discussion on this parable? I think for the very same reason we tend to treat family differently than we would a stranger. Because they are familiar and there’s a sense of safety. We’ve learned we can rely on each other. Families, like the strangers in the story, come together in times of need. We need to treat family with the same courtesy we extend to strangers.
But, you might say, we don’t agree, fight all the time, shouldn’t have to say sorry— it's family. I have found the best way to forget your differences and arguments is to get involved in service to each other or together for another.
Look back at the responses you and others have given to disasters. Many strangers pitch in to care for those affected. Restoring normalcy is everyone’s concern as they serve their fellow-man.
After Hurricane Irene, my sister, children and I went to North Carolina to help our parents, brother and their neighbors. Twelve feet of water, pushed ashore by Hurricane Irene, destroyed and damaged many homes.
Thanks to the many who donated funds and time to the Red Cross, we didn’t have to search for nor find a way to cook our meals. Three times a day the Red Cross came and provided us with the food and water needed so we could dedicate our time to removing debris and clearing the homes of ruined, damaged and salvageable contents. The donations, strangers helping strangers, allowed us to help with physical labor and with our listening ears.
We gave a compassionate shoulder as my family and their neighbors cried, talked through and came to terms with their experiences and losses. My family and I grew closer from the time spent, not only with my parents and siblings, but from those anxious and wondering how to answer the question, what next?
Lose your differences in service
Service loses differences, requires sacrifice, cooperation and a willingness to give of yourself. Many people have found their trials have also turned around when they got lost in unselfish service to others.
The other day a really interesting post showed up on my Facebook page that made me want to hit my head like those on the “should’ve had a V-8,” commercial. The post was about Blessing Bags. The following items may be placed in a gallon size Ziploc bag:
Baby wipes (Some people use soap. Choose a soap that doesn’t have a strong odor that could infiltrate other contents.)
Whole food bars
$5 gift card to a tea or coffee-house
Local resource list
Organizations, groups or your family can put these together for shelters and those in need. One great recommendation is to keep some in your car. When someone asks for help you can give them the bag. I seldom carry cash and many times I’ve wished I had something to give. I’ve even picked up a meal only to return and find the person in need has moved on in the meantime.
Service extended to your family and by your family to your neighbors multiplies like the smile. Kindness extended tends to extend more kindness. Life becomes more fulfilling when you recognize needs and fulfill them. Those you have blessed will follow your example and do the same. Get lost in service, forget your differences and start the ball rolling. Who knows how far and wide your simple act will strengthen the world and, most importantly, your family.