As Sandi and Scarlett and I traveled home after seeing each of our families during the Christmas break we carted with us what seemed like half of our earthly belongings: 1 large suitcase, 2 small suitcases, 1 car-seat base, 1 car-seat, 1 stroller, 1 laptop bag, and 1 diaper bag. Oh, and a sometimes screaming, sometimes giggling, and always unpredictable 14 month old toddler.
So it was at the end of our trip that we slowly managed all these items off a plane, through the airport, and on and off the metro, arriving home at the Columbia Heights stop only to find the elevator “out of service.” Trying to figure out how to deal with this we ultimately decided to take as much as we could, stroller and baby included, up the escalator, leaving one lonely bag unattended at the bottom. As I rode the escalator up I looked back to our abandoned bag hoping no one would take it, or worse, report it as suspicious. As I did, I was surprised to see a Latino man who must have seen our plight waving, and offering to bring it up behind me. I graciously accepted and then awkwardly told him thank you when he met me at the platform on top.
A random act of kindness. A gesture of generosity. A moment of shared human empathy, because really, we have all been in situations where we just needed a hand.
It is amazing what something like that can do. A little kindness can bring a smile and some peace to a stressful situation. That man’s thoughtfulness certainly made our walk home a little brighter even as we stepped out of the station and into the rain.
As we go about our lives today with our technology in hand, our headphones in our ears, the busyness of our lives, and our tendency to quickly think “i don’t want to get involved,” we are at risk of becoming more and more isolated from one another. Strangely, it seems that the larger the city and the bigger the crowd the more self involved and introverted we become. This is a dangerous cycle – the more isolated we are, the more distrustful and standoffish we tend to be, and the more isolated we become.
As Christians, living in the midst of all of this, are we living up to Jesus’ commission to love our neighbors? Is it even possible to really love our neighbor as we go through the bustle of our days? And if we were to take the time to love our neighbors, all of those in need throughout our day, would we actually get anything else done? I guess that might be a worthwhile challenge to pursue.
I would argue that doing our best to love our neighbors is still a battle worth fighting. Maybe more so than ever before. In that moment when I needed a kindness from my neighbor that man on the escalator was there to help. He and I may not share the same language, and our backgrounds might be wildly different, but in that moment something worthwhile was exchanged between the two of us. He did something nice. I said thank you. A little trust was built, a connection was experienced, and perhaps most importantly, it made me think about whether I would have done the same for him. His gesture was a teaching moment and something that stuck with me.
I believe Jesus’ command to love our neighbor might have far greater implications that it seems on the surface. Yes, it is the right thing to do, as Jesus taught, but when we love and care for someone else, a bridge is built and a connection is experienced. We are actually drawn toward them as we care for them. People on both sides of the process often grow and, even if in very small ways, they momentarily become the better for it.
There are too many things that separate us today. Especially as news of terrorism and violence scroll across our screens, and trusting others is sometimes hard, we need to be reminded and shown that we have much in common. We need to constantly remind ourselves and teach our hearts that we are called to follow Jesus, and that means loving as Jesus loved. The first step in doing this is to simply extend ourselves, to go out of our way for someone else. No, we shouldn’t take on undo risk, but sometimes that is just an excuse. Small gestures do matter, little acts of kindness often aren’t little.
When fully lived out, loving our neighbor means not just doing nice things here and there, but rather it is being led by Jesus as we become his hands and feet at work, caring for the whole person, whoever that may be, desiring the best for them, and doing what we can to see that through.