In the book of Luke, an expert in the law asks, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. His examples guide us through several encounters with an injured man - all with diverse responses. Jesus then turns to the lawyer and asks:
Which of these three, in thy opin ion, was neighbour to him that fell among the robbers? But he said: He that showed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him: Go, and do thou in like manner.
Digging deeper into the basis of this story, I find myself wondering how many minute details are regularly missed when it comes to the coincidental encounters we all experience.
In Search Of Neighbor
Ever since my husband and I temporarily moved into a duplex while our tiny house was completed, the family across the way has intrigued me. Unlike the remote, pastoral surroundings of our new home, here we have close neighbors all around. We have become acquainted with some of them. Like us, the neighbor behind us also has a small dog, with a propensity for escaping her allowable geography, which has given us occasions for casual conversation. Next door, a precocious neighbor toddler is the same age as our youngest granddaughter and across the street, a neighbor dutifully cares for the needs of her aging mother. By chance encounters and common interests, I've found small familiarities with these families.
One neighbor, however, I have not met yet am intrigued by chance observations. Passively sitting in the driveway while the rest of our downsized belongings are loaded onto a small trailer, I ponder on the insight I have gained, just by reflective attention to a few details.
If we are willing, there is much to be discerned by a casual glance now and again. This particular neighbor suffers from some debilitating physical ailment. Handicap plates on the car, the glimpse of a wheelchair, and thoughtful placement of a strategically situated side table speaks of someone who loves the outdoors but is confined to the inside while looking out. Sometimes there is a game of chess visible on the little table in front of the gleaming glass door but even so, the preferred vantage point is always outdoors.
Love of Nature
There are robust hanging plants, thriving plants in pots, and a rainbow of vibrant flowerbeds all around the front yard. Their splendid garden features a riot of color. Nurture and care of this Eden are clearly evident.
This neighbor shares my love of animals. A chance glance in his direction gives a glimpse of not one but two cats, casually strolling past the glass door and then luxuriously perching on the sofa. At just about dusk each evening they head out to prowl and do what it is that our feline friends do under the cover of darkness. They quickly return to the welcoming arms of their humans, which indicates they feel loved.
Along with the array of blossoms, foliage, and pampered cats are several bird feeders - finches, robins, and humming birds all have their own specific feeding station. All of this appears to be easily viewable from the carefully arranged furnishings and the glass door.
Our Neighbor Is Tidy And Has Nothing to Hide
Despite the obvious physical challenges faced, the yard and drive are meticulously kept. No offensive litter, neatly clipped grass, and much attention to order are evident in their landscape. Our neighbor portrays a tidy habit.
Open blinds, windows, and doors speak of the candid nature of our neighbor - there is nothing superficial. As open as a book, this person is living a full life despite the burdensome hand they have been dealt. There is a pure appreciation of life evident here and a richness not provided by merely temporal goods. By all appearances this neighbor finds boundless joy, fulfillment, and peace in what he has been given. His cup seems to overflow with an almost enviable God-given plenitude of riches.
Interact With Neighbor
As I sit here today, our last day of inhabiting this bustling neighborhood, I can't help but wonder about the lives of the people we never came to know. Like us, they may be in transition. Some, like the elderly neighbor, are most likely here to stay – as their lives tranquility follow the setting of the sun.
I've spontaneously prayed for these people, as they appeared out of their doorways and enclosures and have marveled at how much God loves each of us no matter how different our lives have been or are destined to be.
What fruitful opportunities were missed and are now regrettably gone forever? Should I have crossed the street and struck up conversations? In retrospect, I inwardly answer, yes. Would I have found a receptive soul? Perhaps, I could have learned something of benefit to my own Eternity. What is done, is done, but a lesson to take away is to seek out opportunities and not blindly march through our days as single-minded, secluded souls.
The question I ponder now, is how will I present myself as a Godly witness to others? How will I show mercy to a mere acquaintance ? Not in search of worldly praise but as a spiritually positive example of what it means to be a neighbor who is obedient to Christ. Are others' casual impressions of me valid or negatively warped by a lack of transparency or some faulty perception? Even as we seek to live our lives in the best way possible, we are reminded that our lives give witness to neighbor, concerning who we are.