Apr 22, 2020

"Faithful Neighbors, and the Like."



By Molly Barnett

Over a month ago, before our state imposed stay-at-home laws, my husband and I  heard a knock at the kitchen door as we relaxed on the couch after our son went to bed. Slightly rattled by the unexpected greeting, I gingerly walked to the door, and cautiously gazed out the window only to see our neighbor smiling and waving on the other side of the glass. In that moment I simply had to laugh at my previous suspicion and realized with embarrassment who I had become in this age of texting. What once upon a time had been an expected sound at the door, had become a surprise! Long story short, our neighbor had simply stopped by to ask if we needed anything from the store, which then led to him spending a little over an hour with us in our living room, conversing delightedly and reciting poems we have memorized. Yes, you read that correctly--poetry! God has been too good to us in terms of who we have as physical neighbors. 

So then I began thinking about the gift of good neighbors as Luther explains in the fourth 
petition:
Give us this day our daily bread. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

According to this list of daily bread, we have been blessed immeasurably! Thus, I have been pondering the gift of good neighbors and the calling we have to act as faithful ones to those around us. 

I met these neighbors by pure coincidence almost one year ago. With my eight-day-old son in arms, I took a short stroll outside around the courtyard and ran into my neighbor who greeted me kindly, which led to introductory remarks. Following interactions then led to a friendship of families. These are the neighbors for whom we pray in the fourth petition. The wife and mother of two used to hold weekly soup lunches for her other friends who are mothers with children, and I witnessed her selfless hospitality extended to all of us week after week. These simple gatherings allowed all of us mothers to share the happenings in our lives and often seek advice on child-rearing. In addition to these social gatherings, our neighbors freely lent us their high chair for our son to use, toys, diapers when I suddenly ran out and needed one immediately, and other odds and ends. I knew then and still know that if I reach out with a need, they will respond to lend a helping hand. In many more ways, they have taught us how to be faithful neighbors.

So what do “good neighbors” look like now in this time of isolation? We as Christians are called to remain faithful neighbors in all times. At the least, we can utilize the wise use of our phones and technology to remain in contact. A simple, “how are you today?” might be just what our neighbors need. A good dose of human creativity seems to be on the rise where we live. Many neighbors in the community are engaging in a “teddy bear hunt” wherein participants place teddy bears in their windows for walkers to seek and find. This little game has become a delightful ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy atmosphere. 

Although these little acts may help lift our neighbors’ downcast spirits, we ought to continue praying fervently for them as well. In fact, as Christians, that is arguably the best way to be a faithful neighbor. “How are you? How can I pray for you?” we might ask. 

I continue to pray for the health of this nation and hope that once the restrictions are lifted, we might return to acting as faithful neighbors in a more physical way by picking up groceries, knocking on doors to say hello, helping repair broken belongings, and watching one another’s children. For now, and always, let us continue lifting our prayers to our Heavenly Father to grant us faithful neighbors and help us be them. 



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Molly Barnett lives with her husband and son in Alexandria, Virginia where they are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Before becoming a mother, she taught fourth grade for six years at the classical Immanuel Lutheran School. She holds a B.A. in English from The Ohio State University and an M.A. in liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. Her favorite activities these days include walking outside with her family, playing the piano, and competing against her husband in various board games. 

Image source.

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