The Good Neighbor

Her name was Mrs. Carmichael, but everyone called her Mom, and she was the epitome of what it means to be a good neighbor.  Her heart was bigger than her pocketbook, and she took the meaning of Matthew 25:31-40 seriously, for her life was dedicated to providing for the “least among us.” I became one of them when I was laid-off from my job in 1975.

I had been living at her boardinghouse, paying $35 a week for a bed and two meals a day, and she and I became good friends, as I was the only woman staying at the boardinghouse with probably 10 men. Then, I lost my job and, after a few weeks without finding a job, I could not pay my room and board. I looked for a job, but there simply were no job during this time of recession. I was afraid that she would ask me to leave, rendering me homeless, but she did not. She let me stay week after week, with no money in sight.

When my mom sent me $20, I would give her $15 toward my balance, but it grew into more than a thousand dollars. During this time, she gave me money for basic hygiene items and other little things, and I insisted she keep a tab for when I got a job. Then, one day, she said that in exchange for room and board, she wanted me to volunteer at Literacy Action, a non-profit organization that taught basic reading and arithmetic to people who wanted to learn to read. For each week that I taught for Literacy Action, she took money off my balance. She had learned to read at age 50 at this organization. I also volunteered at an organization that took care of the homeless.

Her concern was always to feed the hungry, shelter those without homes, visit the sick and she visited women in jail, singing gospel songs to them and telling them of Christ Jesus’s love for them, which I found amazing. Her faith was bigger than any I had ever witnessed. When most of her roomers could not pay and she did not have the money to feed us, she would pray and donations would come in, which astounded me. Her faith never wavered, and I learned from her the real meaning of trusting in God even when it seems impossible that anything will change.

Mom taught me the real message of being a good neighbor, for she loved the Lord, and she took His command to take care of the least among us literally. She did not do it expecting that Jesus was keeping a score sheet and that she would get a bigger crown in Heaven than others. Instead, she lived by the words in James 2: 17-18, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Today, there is tremendous need around the world, with hunger and the lack of shelter a grievous reality around the world, and, yes, also in America. Let us, the people of God, whom Jesus calls to care for Him through loving and sharing our bounty with others, do just that, become good neighbors by giving to local organizations that feed, clothe, house, and care for the least among us. You never know when you may be one of them, just like I once was.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Let us remember that when we say to You each day, “Give us our daily bread,” that we are called to share what is provided with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We are often the means by which you provide someone with their daily protection, provisions, and providence. Let us be your proactive sheep, finding organizations in our neighborhoods and cities that cater to the least among us, and giving to them, so they can fulfill your command. You are still Lord of the Harvest, and all blessings still flow from You, often through us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 



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