National Good Neighbor Day, September 28th, will have come and gone by the time this article posts. I haven’t checked, but something tells me there won’t be much of a selection of cards for this occasion at my local drug store. At the moment, I am considering a variety of good neighborly things that I can offer in the spirit of this (mostly) overlooked occasion. Things ranging from a cup of sugar to Simonizing one car per household (two cars total — neighbors immediately adjacent) come to mind. Would that be enough?
Who Is My Neighbor?
Let’s look to Sacred Scripture: the parable of the Good Samaritan and the man who fell among the robbers: a good neighbor would be “the one who showed mercy on him” (Luke 10:37).
While being a good neighbor certainly involves the families nearest to us geographically, it also includes those closest to us: our family members. It also extends beyond the four walls of our households and neighborhood to the four corners of the world! Even though the four corners of my world might be the boundaries of my home state, I know I am called by Jesus to be a neighbor to everyone I meet and extend the mercy of God in each particular situation.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is important to pray for an increased awareness of the abundant mercy that has been given to us by God along with a sincere prayer for the grace to extend mercy to others. Listening, being present and helping in ways that are attentive to each individual’s needs and dignity are all excellent ways to be a good neighbor.
The Domestic Church
Our closest neighbors are those that live with us. Spouses, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as extended family and friends in need, can all constitute the membership of a household. In many cases, those we share our living space with are the hardest to see as neighbors. Even though charity (love) should begin at home, we often discover that the familiarity of family breeds some degree of contempt. The challenge of being neighbors in The Domestic Church is to realize these citizens are at least as deserving of our love as anyone else.
Being a good neighbor within the confines of the parish has its unique challenges. We are asked to slide to the center of the pew sometimes, giving up our choice place at the end! We are challenged by babies that cry and those who don’t seem to care about their appearance. Being considerate in the parking lot on the way to and from Mass can go a long way in being neighborly, as can introducing yourself to at least one person you don’t know. Full, conscious, active participation in the Mass is an excellent way to be a living witness to faith to those in your section of the congregation.
Our mission as church and as individuals is to bring Christ to others. The call to “go and make disciples” can be effected and actuated in our corner of the vineyard that is the world. Whether our real estate is large or small, we can be a neighbor by being faithful to Christ’s great commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Each of us has a unique sphere of influence as we engage in the daily activities of life. We pray for our daily bread and are tasked by God to share our gifts with all who are placed in our path.
In The Enemies’ Camp
Are we called to be a neighbor to our enemies? If we take the words of Jesus seriously, the answer is a resounding yes. In our own strength, most of us can hardly tolerate those that oppose us. Even though our foes might not brandish swords or firearms, they can hurt and wound us in deep and profound ways. While being a good neighbor in our enemy’s camp wouldn’t necessarily involve singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire, extending forgiveness through God’s grace and strength would go a long way towards embracing the twofold commandment of loving God and neighbor.
Let us pray for the grace to make every day of our lives Good Neighbor Day as we journey toward Heaven!