“We just thought we’d stop by since we was in the neighborhood!”
I heard this said so many times. Only it was with a thick southern drawl, more like, “We jes thought we’d stop by since we was in the nay-buh-hud”. What makes it funny was that this was said by a neighbor, who lived the equivalent of one block (or less!) down our road. In the neighborhood, eh?
I’d smile and nod, and say ‘come on in’, and try to enjoy what could be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour visit from these sisters, both around my age. Sometimes they were entertaining, usually more because of the way they said things than what was actually said. But still I’d watch the clock and come up with nice ways to send them back home. Or Linda Beth and I would play “tag”–you talk for the first 20 minutes then I’ll take over.
And that was on my good days.
When I was really busy, or feeling irritated by their continual drop-ins, I’m ashamed to say I’d just hide and pretend not to be home. I’m sure none of my fine readers have ever done anything as low as that.
The sad part is, I knew it was my job to love my neighbor. I knew that I had a unique opportunity to influence these young ladies for good, to be a friend, to show Christ to them. They claimed to know God and to pray and go to church, but then they’d turn around and say His name in vain. I knew God was giving me this chance to be a light in their lives.
They really were perfectly nice girls, even if they were a little long-winded and inconsiderate at times. So why was I so annoyed with them? Because I was being inconvenienced. Because I had better things to do than talk about job searching or school for an hour. Because I didn’t feel like being social that day. I, I, I!
None of them good reasons. All totally selfish.
And then, just as I knew in the back of mind could happen, they moved away, and I lost my chance. It’s been about a year since then, and every once in a while when I’m reminded of something they used to say or do, I feel a tinge of regret for not being a better neighbor. Not because they knew I was ignoring them or secretly hoping they’d go away, but because I knew I wasn’t being Christlike. I was not loving my neighbor.
Then [the King] will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’