I truly enjoy asking and thinking about this question and recently asked it in my small group. Some responses were pop cultural, such as “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There” or “Please won’t you be my neighbor” from Mr. Rogers. Then we settled into our Biblical answers, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and the parable of the good Samaritan. Finally, my husband, who’s from Afghanistan and whose mother tongue is Dari, spoke up and said, “I never really thought of this before, but in Dari, the word for neighbor is “ham-soya” and it literally translates into “same shadow.” For some reason, God keeps bringing this word picture back to my mind as I think about the parable of good Samaritan.
Who was the neighbor in the parable of the good Samaritan? He was the one brave enough, loving enough, aware enough, and humble enough to cross the road and get close enough to “share his shadow.” While it’s true that sometimes our neighbors are the ones who we already find “in our shadow” like the young lady across the street I have yet to meet or the older couple two doors down that might need some help with yard work, other times our neighbors are those that God brings into our line of sight as we go about our daily lives. Much like the Samaritan walking along the road and encountering the injured man literally dying in the ditch. However, I also believe that our neighbors include those that God brings into our mind’s eye as we hear and learn about those suffering around the world. Are we willing to go even then to go out of our way to learn more and pray fervently and specifically for these neighbors? Are we willing to share some of our shadows and provide food and shelter? Are we willing to walk with them through the hard times and not lose track of needs when stories roll out of the news cycle?
Also, I’ve recently been challenged to remember that being a neighbor requires love and a desire for a relationship. God didn’t send Jesus to earth just to check off” an item on his “to-do list” for humanity. He came to restore a relationship. Relationships are designed and modeled by God in His very nature as Trinity. Am I trying to “Do the neighbor thing” or trying to “be a neighbor? For me “being” is a lot harder than “doing”.
As we enter into the next few months, I would love for us to take some time to ask ourselves, “Who is my neighbor?” We can ask God to open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to those in our neighborhoods, our daily paths, and those around the world with whom He would have us “share our shadow” and let them share their shadow with us as well.
I am so excited that over 100 Afghans will be calling Northwest Arkansas their new home within the next couple of months. However, I am examining my heart daily, desiring to approach my new neighbors as friends, each created by God and in His image with unique stories, joys, and struggles. They are not a project or a checklist item. They are more than all of the tragedies that they have endured. I need them as a friend probably more than anything that I could offer to them.
If you would like to know more about reaching out to your neighbors who many have resettled from around the world, I would highly recommend reading the book of essays No Longer Strangers, edited by Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi Page. To learn more about how NorthStar is striving to be a neighbor to Afghan refugees through NSA’s Blessing Project you can use the link here.