Queue the game show music. You have ten seconds to name as many of your neighbors as you can. Ready, set…go!
How many names did you come up with? And how well do you know the people behind those names? I’ll have to admit, I didn’t do too well beyond my immediate neighbors. Sadly, in our quiet and transient neighborhood, we don’t see each other much beyond the parking lot. It was a surprisingly pleasant gift when our neighbors got locked out of their apartment and had to camp out in our living room for a couple hours.
What’s got me thinking about this? Last year as I was cleaning out my parents’ garage after their recent move their neighbor came by. He asked about my mom and dad, genuinely concerned about their well being and wondering if he could help in any way.
“You see,” he said, “your parents were more than neighbors to us. They always went out of their way for everyone in the neighborhood. They took the time to get to know us. They even helped us when we needed it—doing things like shoveling our walks. This place won’t be the same without them. And we want to help them like they helped us.”
What powerful words. My parents have always demonstrated the art of being a neighbor—my dad, the friendly, humble servant and my mom the gentle, nurturing caregiver. When I was little, they knew everyone within a few block radius, and even welcomed strangers into our home on a regular basis—from a lonely old man named Augie, to an autistic boy named Danny, to foreign exchange students from all over the world—one of whom said of my dad: “If everyone in the world were like him, there would be no war.”
How appropriate my dad’s nickname is Jasper—a precious stone known for representing sacrifice and royalty. It is listed as the first foundation stone in the walls of heaven. How fitting that my mom’s name means “grace.” She’s one of the most gracious people I know.
As I think about all I’m grateful for, one of the biggest things is that I have parents who are an example of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” They’ve shown me what the Christian life should be: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And they’ve emulated the words I saw each day on our kitchen wall as I grew up, “Love is the little things you do.”
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)