If I had asked a month ago what loving one’s neighbor looks like, I’d probably have gotten answers such as helping old ladies cross the street or parking further away from the church entrance so others could park closer. A glass-half-full benefit of this current pandemic is that, while we are seeing that such actions are great, ultimately, loving our neighbor extends further than these things and fully invites them into community with us.
I was missing my family even before this pandemic; I live miles and miles and hours and hours away from pretty much all of my loved ones and close friends. With plans now up in the air for when I will be able to see any of them again, my husband and I have tried to figure out ways to be intentional with the people around us as well as with our special friends in far off places. We’ve learned that our neighbors are not only those we see often or those who live nearby but those whom we have community with. Here are some practical ways to serve and love your neighbors during this time.
Bake Some Goodies
When I first moved to St. Louis with my husband, our neighbors invited us to have dinner at their place. This dinner—our first experience of what community could and would look like here—allowed us to get to know our neighbors, and it was a memorable act of kindness to the newbies in the building.
Sharing a meal together is a biblical thing! We see in the Book of Acts that the Early Church met often, worshiped, and shared meals together. Food brings people together. And right now, it seems like everyone and their mother is learning to create something new in the kitchen. I don’t know about you, but we’ve struggled to eat all that we’ve baked. Make some memories and cultivate your cooking skills while loving your neighbor by baking them a treat or making them a meal to deliver in a socially distant way. You never know what a meal could mean to someone.
If you can, place these baked goods in a disposable container so that giving back your dish isn’t a concern or stressor for the person you are gifting. This is a tip someone shared with me when making meals for new parents!
Recently, my family created an online euchre tournament (if you don’t know what that card game is, don’t worry—it seems to be a regional thing). We spent four hours video chatting and playing together, laughing, and sharing about our lives. Our tournament included players from six states (from Florida to Alaska!), three time zones, and almost one hundred degrees in temperature differences. Without this pandemic, we would not have done that. It was the first time we were all “together” since my wedding! We have also been playing a board game with my sister-in-law and her husband through similar technology.
There are plenty of ways to continue making memories with loved ones who are far away. Many websites offer games that can be played online, and you can make it more personal by video chatting at the same time as playing. We’ve found that these games help make video conversations last longer and provide opportunities to connect over not only the shared experience of stay-at-home orders but also with something much lighter—a game. These conversations have allowed us to understand how we can pray specifically for our neighbors.
I love receiving mail. When I was younger, I had a pen pal. We met one day while I was playing at my local beach. Her family was on vacation, and we started to play together. Soon, our parents got to talking, and we learned we had a lot in common! At the end of the beach day, we exchanged addresses, and soon, we were writing letters back and forth. When we were older, we settled for Facebook exchanges. Maybe it’s because of this experience that I think letter-writing is a lost art. And again—this is a biblical practice. Many of the books of the Bible were originally letters to specific people or specific congregations!
With not much else going on and no one coming over to our place, receiving letters from friends and loved ones has brought us a lot of joy. And we know that the people who receive our letters feel the same way. Maybe choose one specific person in your community to write a letter to; it could be a friend, a family member, or someone you appreciate right now. In this letter, share why you are thankful for them, what is new in your daily life, and what God is currently teaching you.
Our entire lives are witnesses to Christ. Right now, the world needs hope. Through the hope and strength found in Jesus, we continue to love our neighbors in these new (but also old) ways. And when this pandemic is over, I hope we continue to connect with our neighbors through these practices.
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