I’d painted myself into a corner with deadlines and writing responsibilities. Correspondence for a non-profit board on which I serve. A magazine publication deadline. Prepping for a task force meeting and report. The only solution was to lock myself in the office for a three-hour block of uninterrupted time to write. Google calendar assured me it was possible.
But then at 8 a.m. our church internet provider had a “technical glitch” that wouldn’t be repaired for four hours. No phones. No internet. No access to my documents. How was that possible? I reacted badly. Weary of my whining, our office manager sent me home to work (and to get my toxic attitude out of the building). I packed my bag and stormed to my car, fuming at the loss of my writing window. On the way home, a freight train blocked my path. Grrrr. As I drove past Covenant Village, a gray sedan slowed traffic–weaving in its lane, stopping, signaling, lurching. Old people.
I loomed up behind the offending vehicle, ready to lay on my horn and/or call the police on the idiot ahead of me, who had no business behind the wheel of the car, who clearly needed to have their license revoked, who obviously . . . (fill in the angry blank.) But as I got closer to the car, I realized the driver was not the idiot I had imagined, but a white-knuckled teenager, peering anxiously over the steering wheel, consulting mirrors and dashboard, accompanied by his equally white-knuckled mother. The driver who had driven me to thoughts of violence was just a kid learning to drive. Who was the idiot?
In a flash, I remembered practice driving with my daughters. The endless slow loops around our neighborhood, parallel parking in empty lots, learning to back and signal and gauge distances. And I remembered how grateful I was for all the other drivers who gave us room, who smiled at my daughter’s slow progress, who forgave us sitting through three red lights in a row because she didn’t have the courage to enter the intersection.
Later in the day, a conversation with our intern about Sunday’s texts convicted me further. Guess what we’re reading Sunday? The Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10.25-37) Remember the moral of that story? “Neighbor” is not a designation of street address nor an evaluation of likability, but any person in need (remember the injured traveler in the ditch) AND anyone who offers assistance to such travelers—even, especially if the helper is unlikely (the Samaritan was of a “lesser” class).
I was a terrible neighbor that day—impatient, judgmental, self-important, anxious. The true neighbors I met that day were our staff who often talk me off the ledge, the beleaguered Comcast technicians who endured the ire of thousands of snitty customers like me, other drivers who gave the student driver (and road raging Me) wide berth and a friendly wave, and you, who are unflinchingly forgiving, kind and hopeful.
And what of other distant nameless-to-us but known-to-God neighbors who are in serious trouble. And who are the Steady Samaritans who come to their aid? We may bicker about the politics of it all, or where financial responsibility lies, or even doubt the veracity of their claims. But while cranky people like me render unkind judgments and form opinions without information, frightened travelers in our city and on our borders seek mercy from unlikely angels.
On Sunday, we will sing:
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
Show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.
“Who is my neighbor?” Jesus queried.
We know. We have always known. It’s just that we don’t always like the answer.
Grateful for good neighbors like you,
Pastor JoAnn Post