We moved to a new neighborhood in a new community, in late Spring. As part of our call to love our neighbors, we’ve been trying to get acquainted with those who live around us. Walking is one good way to do that. So we walk.
Many of our neighbors walk. They want to meet new people too. We’ve met them and others. We’ve encountered many friendly people. Not everyone is friendly, however. One couple seemed particularly determined not to talk. Heads down, their gaze was kept straight forward. We tried friendly hellos. When hellos were unproductive, we tried waving. There seemed to be little to no response. One evening we stopped to look into a new construction property. That couple happened to be walking by just as we were exploring. We heard the man say, ‘you’re not supposed to do that.’ We felt scolded.
What’s up? Occasionally we mused about the unfriendly couple who won’t speak in our neighborhood. That’s not how we are, we thought proudly. How snobbish.
One day we saw an Open House sign near their home. We have always liked to look at other homes. It’s a good way to get ideas about decor, layout, etc. So we went to the Open House. We enjoyed looking around their home. During our tour, we visited with the Real Estate Agent who was showing the home. She pointed out an unusual ceiling in one bedroom. We noticed one bathroom sink was lower than usual. The agent said that was how her autistic son wanted it. Autistic son? That’s not her husband? He’s an adult son? He has autism? People struggling with this complex disorder often have difficulty with social interaction.
The agent had no idea how her revelation reprimanded us. On our walk home that afternoon we faced our judgmental attitude. How could we have been so insensitive? It was a stark reminder of how easy it is to misjudge people. It’s often because we don’t understand them or their circumstances. I read recently that angry people are often hurting people. We only experience the anger. The hurt is carefully guarded, tucked away, where no one can see it. Love considers that there could be something more than anger going on. We had not considered that.
We now reach out to this mother and son as we see them on evening walks. Recently she responded with a warm smile. She, of course, could not know how we felt. We were filled with compassion for them. Maybe we’ll learn how to love our neighbors yet.
One thought on “Learning to Love Our Neighbors”
As I am back teaching ESL students, I find it is also true that we need to learn to love our neighbors. I have six students who will be out of school on Thursday to celebrate Eid (a Muslim holiday). Do I love them differently, teach them differently? No, because their religion is not what defines them in my eyes. But in many people's eyes (and even people who call themselves Christian), that is exactly what defines them because of a few radical Muslims we have met through the news. It is almost always true that acceptance comes from knowledge–knowledge about what is truly in people's lives and hearts.