Who is my neighbor?

Built on a Rock

“A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho…” So begins one of Jesus’ most popular stories, The Parable of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke 10:25-37). Being a parable, the events described didn’t actually take place, but the story served as an illustration, in this case, answering the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?”

In the parable, the traveler was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two religious leaders came upon him and passed by, giving him wide berth. Then a (hated and despised) Samaritan came along, tended to his wounds, and provided for his continuing care. Who was the neighbor? “The one who showed him mercy.”

We all have been each of the characters in the story. Each of us has been hurt in some way at the hands of others, perhaps physically beaten up, teased, excluded, lied about, etc. Each of us has turned a blind eye to those we see who are hurting, not wanting to get involved for whatever reason – we don’t know them personally, their skin color or beliefs are different from ours, we don’t want to get dragged into their mess, we think they somehow deserve their situation, etc. We have even been the robbers, causing harm to those around us, sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently. Hopefully we have also been the Samaritan, the person who saw someone in need and did what they could to help.

I have had times where I was the traveler. A couple of times I was literally lying hurt on the side of the road (sidewalk), and “Good Samaritans” assisted me, bringing me to the hospital, or looking after my needs in other ways. Other times, friends and acquaintances lent an ear, shared a meal, or helped with a project. While I was out on medical leave this past summer, folks brought food, sent cards, made phone calls, and dropped by for visits. Some of these many helpful and compassionate people I knew, others I didn’t. But each one was a neighbor to me, showing kindness and mercy.

The world is in a lot of hurt right now. Covid is still a thing. Christmas is over, and the rest of the long winter stretches out ahead of us, complete with frigid temperatures, strong winds, and winter blahs. Prices on everything are rising, but paychecks are no larger. Mental health is more fragile than usual, for all ages. Tempers are short. We all need a break, and we can’t seem to catch one. I’m sure we can all add to this list!

As Mr. Rogers asked in his television show theme song, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, how can we be neighbors? What can we do to show mercy, kindness, or compassion to those around us, whether we know them or not? How can we make our corner of the world a better place? I challenge you to think about these questions, and act with mercy, kindness and compassion. Won’t you be my neighbor?

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