Each of us must strive to please our neighbors, pursuing their welfare so they will become strong. (Romans 15:2 VOICE)
I heard my pastor remind us about contentment yesterday, but what spoke to me kind of loudly was a little reminder he heard from a fellow pastor friend. You see, that pastor's church was struggling with the constant envy of their neighbors. When the neighbors got a new car, they wanted one. They had "house envy" and even "TV envy". What the pastor said one day to his congregation was awesome. He proclaimed that he had heard so much complaining about the neighbors being blessed with this or that by his fellow congregants. His reminder to them was profound - when you see your neighbor being blessed, just rejoice because it means God is in your neighborhood! Let that one bounce around in your head a few times, will you? Your neighbors blessing shouldn't be a cause of envy, but of rejoicing.
I wonder what kind of a neighborhood we'd have if we stopped competing with each other and actually assumed the responsibility of pursuing things which actually contribute to their welfare? Instead of looking out for just our own needs, we might find ourselves taking the other guy's trash receptacles up the driveway at the end of a busy work day, or even raking up those leaves gathering in the yard. Maybe we'd notice they need a hand in with groceries, or even that their daughter is lonely and seeking someone to play with. We might just see a very simple need we could meet if we'd just stop long enough to look!
I spent the weekend cleaning the garage - a task I don't really like to do, but which reveals we have just way too much stuff! I am not exactly a pack-rat, but as mom has aged, I see her tendency to want to save little things which "might have some use" down the road. I found lots of things which really could be discarded - so I made a trip to the local thrift store with a trunk load of items. I had two bookshelves, small ones, that had been used for some storage in the garage which I no longer needed. They still had much usefulness, so I took them to the curb, along with a metal bed frame and some carpet remnants. It did my heart good to see that one of the bookshelves and the metal bed frame have already found a new home - free of charge. It doesn't matter who claimed it - it matters that it found a new home, a new purpose.
Sometimes it isn't the big things we do which bless our neighbors, but the simple things. It could be the plate of cookies and fudge at Christmas, or the assist running after the dog who is on the loose that speaks the loudest to our neighbors. A few years back, I hadn't seen my neighbor out in the yard for some time, nor his dog being walked. I saw his pick up truck parked where it always was parked. I noticed his house looked "the same" as it always looked. Then one day I came home to the police parked outside, the coroner's van pulled up alongside, and a group of undercover cops asking neighbors when the last time it was they had observed any activity in the home. Alas, my neighbor had died at home, gone undiscovered for about five days, until one day another neighbor took it upon himself to call the police for a well-check. It was a wake up call for me to pay attention to my neighbors!
In some neighborhoods, fences just aren't there. In Arizona, block walls separate one family from another. I might get a little start when the neighbor girl's head pops over the fence and she proclaims my name loudly asking what I am doing, but deep down inside, I know she is lonely. I know she just wants someone to talk with. She even offers to bring in my groceries when she sees me. One day I could tell she was particularly lonely, so when she came over looking for something to do, I gave her permission to gather pine cones in my yard - even those which had not quite fallen from the trees. I gave her an idea for a craft and off she went. It isn't the big things which bless your neighbors, my friends - it may just be the small things done from a heart that really cares for them! Just sayin!