We all have heard the greatest command, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:36-40). Bring on all the coffee cups, T-shirts, and hashtags of “be kind” or “do good”, but do we really practice this? The holidays have come and gone, and now we’re approaching the season of spring, and I wonder if we are still striving to give and love.
Are we even aware of opportunities to love our neighbors or community right where we are? I was walking the halls of my children’s school the other day and wondering if parents knew the volunteer needs at the school, and next found myself wondering what needs were weighing on the hearts of parents at this school. It’s easy to recognize the needs of others during the holidays thanks to Santas ringing bells and collecting change, or the hundreds of other non-profits sharing their needs, but what about the other 11 months out of the year?
What if I told you that loving your neighbor didn’t have to be a huge holiday production? Now, don’t get me wrong. Volunteering at your city’s homeless shelter, feeding the hungry a Thanksgiving meal, or even traveling across the world to dig water wells are all great things! They are needed. However, there are also needs right next-door to you, at work, or at school, now, in your community.
When Jesus says “love thy neighbor” it’s an action. It’s not just a feeling or heart posture of kindness and inclusion, but is also doing something.
So then, how do we love our neighbors? Step 1: you need to know them. You need to be ok with being weird, and be ok with being rejected. Go and be weird or awkward and introduce yourself to people you see on your street, at work, or at your child’s school. Just do it! Step 2: serve them=love them.
My neighbors on my street are some of the most amazing people in Texas and possibly America. They daily live out Steps 1 and 2. We all know each other. We are intentional to talk while seeing each other outside, having each other over for a meal, playdates with our kids, and block parties. Being known has given us the opportunity to be humble enough to share our stories and what is going on in our lives. For example, when I recently resigned from my job and started my own business I couldn’t afford traditional childcare, so a couple of my neighbors offered to pick up my kids from school if I ever needed help. There were several times these sweet moms saved my butt.
One of the biggest acts of service I experienced was from our sweet friends and neighbors that allowed us to live with them for 2 months while we were in-between homes. We shared our experience on the podcast on Season 1, Ep. 7 “Giving Community”, and I encourage you to give it a listen.
We recently made new friends at our children’s school this year, and they heard about our story of temporarily living with neighbors for 2 months. Guess what? They are going on an international mission trip to Africa and need someone to watch their daughter while they’re away, so they asked us to help. They said they felt less awkward to ask us, because they knew we understood what it was like to need help. That’s one of the best parts about loving others well and the action of giving. It has a ripple effect.
I’m sure you’ve heard or maybe even experience the “pay it forward” chain. Someone paid for your Starbucks order so you paid it forward. Again, this is a good thing, so don’t misunderstand me…I’m not knocking on this. I want you to think differently though. You are living next to, working with, or at school with someone who might need your help right now. Maybe it is a need for coffee (and all the moms of newborns said, amen), but maybe it’s something else. You’ll never know until you get to know them, and be humble enough to exchange stories.
The one thing I know for sure in parenting is this, our kids are watching. Those short people are listening to me when I talk to friends on the phone, or my anger problems while driving. They are watching me and learning. What if we taught our kids to be kind, to give back, and to love well by our daily actions of serving our neighbors now?
I want my kids to do more than just follow the golden rule. I want them to love God and others well. So, I’m determined to model this for them as frequently as possible and pray they copy and practice this as well. Hopefully, more than they copy my love for sarcasm.
IDEAS TO SERVE, GIVE, LOVE:
- Children’s outgrown clothes: give them to a neighbor (y’all, how many times does your kid outgrow something? Especially those soccer cleats you use for one season)
- Invite neighbors over for a meal (mine is always pizza, keep it simple, unless you’re a chef…you’re basically required to show off then)
- Carpool: (that carline is dangerous and stressful)
- Babysit: (childcare is like a second mortgage-babysitting is the gift that keeps on giving. Datenight babysitting or school days–all say LOVE)
- Cleaning a home: (do you love cleaning? I hate cooking so I offer my cleaning skills more frequently)
- Run Errands (my neighbor always shoots me a text when she’s going to Sam’s Club, “hey you need anything”)
- Wine Fairy (this was my favorite thing to do for awhile, I would drop off a bottle of wine on my neighbor’s porch just because…she’s a mom)
- Just ask, “How can I help you?”