Neighbors

And the second is like to it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:39

 There are fifteen houses on my street, all built in the 1950’s. The original owners still live in eight of them. In sixty plus years, twenty-three families have come home here. Children, parents, pets, friends, and extended family have spent time here, and still do. Today, my neighbors of ten years swept the floors of their home for the last time – a chance to say goodbye to the house and give its new owner a clean start. I’m sure I’ll see them again, but it won’t be the same. Living next door brings shared work and chance conversations, borrowings and lendings, seeing each other at our best and worst and everywhere in the middle. A new chapter begins for them, for the house, and for everyone on my street.

In the past thirty years and ten locations, my neighbors have been a blessing. I still know quite a few of them, friends that are with me in spirit if not in geography. Some are still close by, others far away, a few at rest with God. My life is far better for their presence in my life and my zip code – the gift of the unplanned real estate encounter.

Jesus said that loving my neighbor as myself is like loving God. For the most part, I’ve genuinely liked my neighbors as well as done my best to love them (meaning good things for them and making sacrifices toward that end). Have my neighbors loved and liked me and my family? Judging by the kindness they have extended to me and mine, I’d say yes. But I don’t think about it much, because I experience them on a far deeper level. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told us to love them – they are a glimpse and an encounter with God here and now. I don’t have any control over the comings and goings that bring neighbors or take them away, but I can take the time to enjoy them or lose out on the opportunity. Nothing exotic in this, just the ordinary and everyday miracle of this time, this place, and these people. I am grateful for the very particular people each home has given me. I’m pretty sure I’ll like Linda, too – her house has a history of lovely people walking its floors…

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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