For nearly three years, we have lived next door to a mother and daughter who actually moved in the rental property next door the same week we bought our house. I never went over to saying hello, and they never came over to introduce themselves. It seems like knowing your neighbors is old-fashioned today. I did finally introduce myself when we happened to be outside at the same time, hoping that it would be a catalyst to a wonderful friendship, but nothing came of it.
For the next two and a half years, I lived my life, and I assumed that they did not want to get to know their neighbors, as I never saw them outside their house. Even after Douglas started to cut their grass when he cut ours, there was no connection made. Douglas and I started a Bible study in our house, and he invited them, but they never came, so I assumed wrongly that they were not interested in knowing the only black person on the street. They talked to Douglas but never to me, so I kept my distance.
Within the last six months, both of the ladies broke one of their legs, making it impossible for them to clean their house or take out their dogs for walks. I learned of their predicament when they called Douglas one day after one of their two dogs got out of the house. A small dog, with a stomach barely off the ground, he would run down the street and, of course, neither of them could run after him. So Douglas would go out in the cold looking for the dog, asking if people saw the dog.
Once found, Douglas would bring him home. I got good at recognizing his bark and knowing when he had escaped out of a door that they were unable to fix. If Douglas was not home or asleep at 2am, I would throw on a robe, go outside, and holler at him until he ran back up his driveway and in the house. They would scream thanks out the door. Then one day as Douglas returned the dog, he discovered why they never ask anyone over to their house, for they were embarrassed at its condition. They asked Douglas if he knew someone who could come in and help clean the house for pay, and when he asked me if I knew anyone to take the job, I said no.
Then, one morning, I was reading Matthew 25: 34-46, where Jesus spoke on taking care of the least of those among us, meaning the people who need the compassion, love, care, time, finances, and provisions of those around them. He chided those who never helped their neighbors in their time of need. I have read those verses many times, but that morning my spirit was convicted, for I realized that what Jesus was saying was that as Christians, we must meet people at the point of their need, showing the love of God through becoming the means through which God answered prayers. I immediately knew that I had an obligation to help them, free of charge. What would I want someone to do for me under the same circumstances?
I felt like a hypocrite, speaking of how much love I have for everyone, but not doing a thing to help my neighbors. In Mark 10:43-45, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, as an example of a servant’s heart. He said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” It is so easy to speak words that sound good, but without demonstrating love for others, we are just making religious noise, and being hypocritical to boot. It is just lip service, words without actions. When we tell people of the love of God while they are in need, but are unwilling to help them, they must question our true feelings. Too often we do not try to understand why some people stay in the homes isolated from others, but we are to offer the love of God to everyone.
We have went out to lunch, and I pray for them each day, hoping to convince them that God has not forgotten them and that Jesus is not mad at them. I want to demonstrate His unfailing love for them. So, I have learned that the road from hypocrisy to helping is paved with loving actions towards those unable to care for themselves. James 1:27 states, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Sometimes people are too proud to ask for help, believing that no one really cares, so as God’s people, we must overcome our fears of intruding in people’s lives and realize that the person who needs help may truly be our neighbors.