In the Neighborhood


This year, our family had a wonderful visit to Washington, DC during spring break. After our early morning tour of the White House, we divided up so that Ben and Jed could go on a whirlwind circuit of the museums to satisfy Jed’s love of history and politics. Riley and I took Clay and Alex to the National Zoo because the younger boys needed something fun to do and because there are pandas in residence.

I took my group on the mass transit Metro, which is not my area of specialty. I am that suburban mom who can spend a whole week driving kids around a five-mile radius of home. I was a bit nervous that we would miss our stop or go the wrong direction on our walk to the zoo. So, when we passed two homeless men in front of a store, I kept walking without much thought. That is, until Clay, who was six-years old at the time, stopped, turned back, walked directly up to one of the men and stared down into his cup. Clay immediately returned to my side, and said, “He has nothing in his cup.” His tone was indignant and accusatory. Clearly, we were not leaving until we put something in that cup. I dug in my purse and gave him some money for both men. He marched over, dropped the money in, and we continued on our way. But Clay’s words and actions have stayed with me.

In the book of John, the story of Christmas is summarized by this verse: “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14 MSG). Later during his ministry, Jesus had a conversation about the meaning of being a neighbor. The person with whom he was talking correctly asserted that God’s law required, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” But then the man asked Jesus, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor?’” Jesus, in his typical fashion, answered the question with a story. He told the now familiar, but at the time revolutionary, story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man is beaten, robbed and left for dead, and ignored by two passersby. The only one who stopped and helped was a Samaritan, who was not a person of high standing in Jesus’ culture. Jesus then asked, “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the man responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37 MSG).

At times, the world can be chaotic, uncaring, and unkind. Our highest ideals are not always realized. The daunting nature of things can feel overwhelming – we want to help others, but there is so much that needs to be done. When we cannot see a way to make a dent in the problems of others, the tendency to isolate and withdraw into ourselves can take over. We can be overcome by guilt that we have not done enough in the past, and now we don’t know where to start. I know I have felt all of these emotions and frustrations.

But maybe, during this time of year, we can commit that going forward, we will pray that God opens our eyes to the “neighbor” in our community, whether it be an individual or organization, that needs our help. And then, just begin. Start small. When we see an empty “cup,” whatever form that cup takes, we will do our part to fill it, even just a little bit. May no cup remain empty. Amen.

The Carter Family
We hope you have a Happy Holiday Season and a Beautiful New Year!

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