I love community. Growing up in church you hear that word a lot however this idea of community seems to be stretching further beyond that now. People are forming community everywhere. Think about things like your fitness, maybe you are part of a running group or even the crazy crossfit community. You can form community around the way you eat #ketogenic #whole30 #vegan #kellystribe. Or what about your favourite sports team (go Bengals!). Think about the different facebook groups you might be in. Mom groups are huge on social media to exchange parenting advice or exchange toys and clothes. Or maybe it’s your political stance. That’s probably a good place to stop.
It feels like we can easily find community anywhere, but what about the community that is closest to home? The community that is directly beside you. Yes, I’m talking about your physical neighbours. I love the idea of community especially when it comes to my neighbours. The idea of knowing each of my neighbours names. Saying hello as we cross paths and chatting about our day. What a lovely idea. But for me, that’s all it is. An idea.
In all honesty, I’m a pretty lousy neighbour. There are 10 units on the floor of our condo and I couldn’t tell you the name of a single person on that floor. Or any other floor. And this has nothing to do with never seeing them, in fact one of the things about living in a condo is that you share an elevator together often which means you don’t just see each other quickly in passing. You enter a tiny little space together and wait patiently inside to arrive to the main floor. Lots of opportunity for conversation, or in my case complete awkward silence.
I struggle every time I get into the elevator with someone knowing I have a choice. Either make eye contact and exchange pleasantries or avoid all eye contact and say nothing. Unfortunately I choose the second option almost every single time. And I can hear all of the excuses in my head, “This person doesn’t want to talk to me. We don’t have anything in common. They’d probably prefer if I keep to myself. I don’t want to bother them. I’m too awkward anyways. What would I even say?” And although sometimes at least one of those may be true, it’s not a good excuse.
Remember those W.W.J.D. bracelets? In situations like this, I often like to picture Jesus in my own situation and ask ‘What would Jesus do?’. I like to think of Jesus as that friendly person you hope to see in the elevator when the door opens to greet me with a smile. Someone who would take the time to listen to my day and genuinely care. Remembers things about the last time you spoke or ask about your family. Always has an open door for others whenever it’s necessary. Never seems to be in a rush to get inside his house, or into his car.
I think for many of us this is far from our own reality. We have no problem being friendly or kind when someone else approaches us but we would never think to instigate. Perhaps because it’s inconvenient. What if I get stuck in this long conversation when I have to be somewhere? Or it could even get a little messy if someone starts to really open up about their personal life. But what if you could shed even the tiniest light of Jesus into someone else’s life? What if you could be Jesus to your neighbour? What if we could tear down the walls and let our neighbours in?
And a second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39
Neighbour can be defined in many different ways however my physical neighbours are my own greatest challenge. And if I want to be more like Jesus, I need to learn how to love them. So much so that my neighbours see me in the elevator and think ‘there’s something different about her’. So how do I change my thoughts from fearing my neighbour to loving my neighbour? How do I think of my condo as being ‘without walls’? I think it starts with being of an intentional mindset. When I open the door, I need to be thinking intentionally about being Jesus to my neighbours. Being prepared when I cross paths with someone to look them in the eyes and greet them. I need to be intentional because this does not come easy to me. And it will be uncomfortable at first but hopefully the more I practice this, the easier it will become. And the other important part to this would be PRAYER. Praying that opportunities would present themselves. Praying that I don’t rely on my own strength. Praying that I don’t give up when it gets inconvenient or messy. Praying that the walls would start to come down and that Jesus would begin to shine through.