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Thursday
Apr252019

Love Your (Actual) Neighbor

Letitia Suk writes about renewal and restoration for every season of life. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she encourages women to reach out to neighbors—actual neighbors—with genuine, practical love.

"We might not know our neighbor’s political leanings, religious beliefs or child-rearing philosophies," Letitia says, "but we share a sidewalk, shop at the local markets, and send our kids to the same school around the corner. It is a good start!"

The Lord recently spoke to me (Dawn) last Christmas about reaching out to my neighbors with more than the annual Christmas treats. He drove home the true meaning of "love your neighbor" (Mark 12:30-31). I know what Letitia says is true!

Letitia continues . . .  

While it may have seemed that the market was right or the schools good or you just stumbled upon the place you’re living, each one of us has been hand-picked for this time and place. The Bible says in Acts 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places that they should live.

That means our neighborhoods.

Six single-family homes, five two-flats and one multi-unit building comprise my corner of the world—and that’s just our side of the street. 

For sale and for rent signs go up and down, as do the moving vans on the street, especially in the spring and fall. A transient culture we have become, but yet, like relatives, we all have neighbors.

Whether your address belongs to one building, part of a larger complex, a college dorm, a rural lane, or a military unit, God has chosen others to share the turf with you.

Though you might end up only knowing a few of them well, they all are a part of your world.

  • Busyness hounds all of us.
  • The neighborhood community of previous generations seems part of nostalgia. 
  • Most of us are scrambling just to find more time to talk to our kids, let alone our neighbors. 

A wave on the way into the car, a summer chat over a fence, or casual conversation at a condo association meeting seems all we can manage most days.

“Love your neighbor” was God's idea.

It's part of “The Great Commandment” even non-churchgoers are usually familiar with.

Do you ever wonder what He had in mind for your block?

Here are some ways to reach out that have worked in the forty years we have been on our corner:

1. Bedtime Prayers

I read about someone who would mentally go up and down the street—when she couldn’t sleep at night—and pray for the neighbors, even the ones she hadn’t met.  That is easy to do not just in sleepless nights but on walks around the block as well. 

Prayers for blessing, health, strong families and spiritual renewal are a very effective way to be a good neighbor.

2. Feed the hungry.

A meal for a family with a new baby, a loaf of banana bread for a new neighbor, a glass of iced tea for a mutual dog walker have all been easily offered, gratefully received. 

Having something already prepared and frozen or stored can help you be ready when a need arises, and it will.

3. Lend a hand. 

Or a shovel, couple of eggs or good recommendation for a plumber! 

Often, I start the exchange by being the borrower. Asking for gardening advice or a certain spice I forgot to buy for a recipe has opened not only many doors to me, but hearts as well.

4. Share the celebration

Fun can abound in a neighborhood!

  • An invitation to a watermelon party to meet some new neighbors came our way last summer. 
  • Another friend shows movies on the side of their garage for the locals. 
  • When a lady on the block finished her graduate degree, we were all invited to celebrate with her.
  • Neighbors know they are welcome in our back yard on the 4th of July.

Most of these events did not involve elaborate food, expense, or housecleaning and were great opportunities to connect.

5. Spread the word. 

When I wanted to learn how to be a better mom, I invited other moms from the neighborhood to join me over coffee and book discussion. 

The next book we discussed was the Bible as a Biblical view of parenting emerged from the first group! A couples group came out of that one and more groups followed. 

Our kids are grown and gone now, so my hanging out on the sidewalk days are few. The mom down the street who used to push her own children around the block in an old buggy now strolls her grandchildren around. The little boy on the block now has his PhD.

Additions get built, fences added, newer cars replace older ones in front of the homes. 

In spite of the changes in the neighborhood, the command to love those in it still stands.

Much good neighboring still happens one on one. 

Often an available listening ear is the best way to love your neighbor. True stories of parents in pain, job distresses, and bad health reports have come my way. These outpourings, sometimes spontaneously offered, often lead to prayer and resulting changed lives. 

Don’t be surprised if you become the neighborhood chaplain!

How do you think God is calling you to connect with YOUR neighbors?

Letitia Suk invites women to chase the intentional life. She writes and speaks of renewal and restoration, offering platters of hope to women in each season of life. Her blend of humor, stories and grace propels audiences towards a fresh experience of God. A retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area, she loves to walk by Lake Michigan, browse resale shops and create new family traditions. She authored 100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens; Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat; and Rhythms of Renewal. She and her husband, Tom, are parents of four grown children. Check out her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

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