Neighbors

Several years ago, a parishioner of my church was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At 91 years old, treatment was not an option, so the doctors sent him home to be comfortable. Shortly after the diagnosis, I visited him and his wife. This older couple sat side by side in easy chairs: Mel waiting for the cancer inside him to take his life, Marian preparing for life without her primary caretaker.

You see, even at 91, Mel took care of Marian. She was legally blind, and needed Mel’s help even getting around the house. As we spoke, it became clear that Mel had already accepting his pending death. “I’ve lived a full life,” he said. It was a life full of wonderful experiences and few regrets. There was no need to worry about him, he assured me.

Naturally, I began to turn my worry toward Marian. Who would care for her? Could she live alone? Both quickly assured me she would be fine. One of their children lived nearby and could check on her daily, but what really helped was all the caring neighbors who surrounded them. Each neighbor on their street seemed to have a specific role. One brought their mail up the long driveway. Another cut their grass. There was a neighbor to plow the driveway, a neighbor to drive them places, and the next door neighbor who looked out her kitchen window every morning to make sure Mel & Marian were awake for another day.

I remarked to hem how fortunate and blessed they were by all these good neighbors. “Yes, we have good neighbors,” Mel said. “But it’s simple, really: to have good neighbors, you just have to be a good neighbor.”

Central to scripture is the love commandment: Love God, love neighbor. Of course, that doesn’t only apply to the people who share our street, but to everyone we share this world with. But sometimes, it really does mean to love your neighbor as yourself. It really means being a good neighbor to those who live around you. When we do, chances are those neighbors will love us back. Be a good neighbor today. It will increase your odds of having good neighbors.

— Pastor Erik