Another Monday, another day to give thanks for all our blessings!Today, I am giving thanks for a most special blessing. Tomorrow is my sweet Mama’s 80th birthday! To celebrate this special day and honor this kind, loving and all around amazing lady, I wrote a little story about her origins and a lesson we can learn from the sleepy Southern town of her birth. Happy Birthday, Mama!
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31 – NIV
From my front porch perch this morning, I recall the gentle rock of an old glider on another front porch long ago. It turns out that my love of front porch sitting does not only descend down my father’s line, but also from my mother’s line too.
You see, front porch sitting in Pelzer was a seasonal imperative for my grandparents. My Papa and Granny spent their summer evenings, rocking in their old glider on their little front porch. In the days before air conditioning and television, front porch sitting was simply part of the culture. It was a way to keep cool and to keep in touch. Papa and Granny would sit on the front porch, hollering across the street to their neighbors who were also rocking on their porches.
When someone walked past on their way to work at the cotton mill just a block away, Papa and Granny would speak and wish them a “Good Evening!” As the occasional car rumbled down the quiet street, they would throw up their hands in a Southern salute of welcome.
From that front porch, you could see the old textile mill, hear the buzz of the cotton looms as they wound the yarn back and forth. My grandparents worked in that mill their whole lives, raising their family of four in that little five room mill house. Granny gave birth to her two boys and their twin sisters, my mother and her precious identical twin, Tina. The kids grew up playing hopscotch on the sidewalk out front, while their parents watched from the glider. That little mill house was full of love, welcoming various other family members to live there from time to time as circumstances necessitated. Papa and Granny had kind hearts, living out their values of goodness and generosity. You could see it from their front porch, where they sat side by side, rocking and just being neighborly.
What is interesting to me is that virtually no one in that small Southern mill village had any money, nor did they always agree on politics or religion. Yet, they knew how to get along, to accept each other for who they were, a bunch of hard-working people just making their way in a world that was often stacked against them.
Sitting here on my front porch so many years later, I wonder what it would be like if we all found the grace to act more neighborly. In this day of divisive language and polarized politics, what would happen if we all stepped out of our air conditioned houses and treated one another as neighbors? What would it be like to quit blaming and complaining and just listen politely to one another? What would it be like to just love one another, even when we don’t agree?
Isn’t that what Jesus was saying in the Parable of the Good Samaritan? “Who is our neighbor?” Did He not command us to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
And so, today, I ask myself, “How can I be a better neighbor?” I think it must start with me, right here, right now. It must start with my heart.
Perhaps you, too, will join me in this quest. Then, just maybe, little by little, with grace and generosity, we can change the culture. We can learn to be better neighbors. We can learn to love.
Today, as you move around your air-conditioned offices or as I walk along my small town street, perhaps you and I can take the time to stop and share a kind word, a hearty laugh or a good old wave of welcome. Maybe we can remember to say “thank you” to the hard working waitress as she serves our meal. Maybe we can call the cashier by name as we thank her for her help. Perhaps we can offer a smile to a stranger or help the elderly lady load her groceries in her car.
Instead of commanding conformity to all our views, perhaps we can just accept each other as we are, while demonstrating the love Jesus called us to show. Perhaps like the people on those porches long ago, we can learn how to just be more neighborly.
“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.”
Luke 10:36-37 – NIV
O Lord Jesus, teach us to be better neighbors. May we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our Lord and Savior. May we set aside the things that divide and open our arms wide to the things that bind. May the world know we are Christians by our love. Teach us, help us, guide us, Lord, for we need you so.