My neighbor’s wife died in 2009, leaving him not only a widower, but without children, totally alone. We’d known the couple for at least twenty-five years and seeing him so isolated and without nearby family bothered us.
My husband suggested we provide a meal a couple of times a week to let the man know people thought about him. He eagerly grasped at the attention and soon I was sending a small plate of food across the street every evening. He didn’t eat much so I just shared a portion of what I was already preparing for my family. Soon we invited him to Sunday dinner and took him with us on birthday outings. His needs grew along with our responsibilities.
But as time progressed we watched him deteriorate, knowing the days left for him to live at home grew short. This week a medical event sent him to the hospital and from there to a care facility.
I can’t say helping him overly burdened us, though there were times when I felt the strain of trying to keep up. When those responsibilities ground to an abrupt halt, I realized how much of my time had been given to help my neighbor. My day suddenly held space in it that had been missing for awhile.
We visit him in his new living arrangement and he has thanked us over and over again for all the help we have been to him. He broke into tears naming the tasks we’ve performed for him as though we were heroic. It didn’t seem that way to us. It took so little of us to provide what he saw as a monumental act of kindness. I don’t mention it to strut my piety, either. We were merely fulfilling God’s command to love our neighbor.
In Matthew 22:36-40, someone asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the law and he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Amazing words, aren’t they? Loving our neighbor is paired with loving God. Look around you. Who needs you to be Christ to them today? God may be closer than you think.