We are all living in isolation these days.
Due to the ongoing pandemic and the delayed return to some sense of normalcy caused in part by the Delta variant, we are overextended. This has gone on for too long.
We are all experiencing some form of anxiety, agitation and anger at the ongoing state of things, the continued uncertainty that affects every area of our lives.
Consequently, we could all use a smile and a good deed — though from a distance out of an abundance of caution.
With depression and suicide rates on the rise, kindness would go a long way. We could all be good neighbors, and there’s actually a day set aside for it.
“National Good Neighbor Day” is Sept. 28. There’s a website and even a pledge.
Raise your hand and repeat after me:
“I pledge to be the ‘good neighbor.’ With the goal of becoming a more connected and caring community, I will be a person who lives with kindness and concern for my neighbors.
“I’ll take the first step by connecting with neighbors and introduce myself. I will practice the ‘good neighbor mindset’ to make connections, invitations, stay aware, and be available to my neighbors. Good neighbors make great neighborhoods.”
You read it. You said it. Whether aloud or in your head, it makes no difference. You’re in!
It began in 1978 with U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who saw a connection between our relationship with our neighbor and communities thriving.
Practicing this sentiment and not just posing for pictures on the creation of the national day, he and his wife Rosalynn began working with Habitat for Humanity in 1984. By 2020, they had helped build 4,390 homes.
Carter is also a Sunday school teacher so none of this should come as a surprise. Being a good neighbor is a part of being a good Christian.
How you treat people that you live in community and share a planet with was so important to Jesus that he made it a commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NRSV). It’s so sturdy that Jesus hung all the laws and the prophets on it.
If faith could be tested, you could question a person’s actions based on this. Do you love your neighbor? It is right after the greatest commandment: Love God.
It is a kind of triune expression of authentic and healthy love: love God, love self, love neighbor. It should be all love. And if one of these is questionable, then the others are sketchy.
Recently, I have questioned yet again, “Does America love its neighbors?”
Images of Haitian migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border along the Rio Grande River and being confronted by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback with whips in hand are being circulated on the internet.
The pictures are jaw-dropping, staggering and cruelly familiar to African American people. They remind us of the slave patrol used in American slavery.
These persons also rode horses and used whips, among other things, to ensure that enslaved Africans didn’t cross the line, leaving the plantation and heading North for freedom. They were protecting their neighbor’s human “property.”
African Americans know the story well and don’t want to see it repeated. We don’t need any more pictures like these because they are worth more than a thousand words.
Described by the Biden Administration as “horrible” and an image that left one “horrified,” I’m going to need more than revised versions of one word.
Because this is more than a horror show. We’re going to need more words.
Because it would take years to unpack the memory that these images conjure up for African American people. It would require a trauma-informed community supported by good neighbors ready and willing to listen and lean in as we shared these stories.
Perhaps, if all educators were allowed to teach African American history, the cruelties of racialized oppression would not be repeated.
But, alas, James Baldwin’s words remain true: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
So don’t look away. Don’t stop reading this article. Don’t change the channel when there is a discussion about race.
Because we have yet to talk it all out — without spiritual bypassing, without white-washing, without blame-shifting, without gaslighting, without denying its evilness and dismissing it as so long ago, without crying so that the focus is now shifted on how you were made to feel by this big, mean and scary conversation.
Look at the picture of the Haitian migrants. Look at it until you see your neighbor.
Then, go out and be a good one.