"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This scripture is always my mantra for any volunteer work I do. For example, if I'm going to cook breakfast for homeless by 5 AM, I'm going to go all out and serve exactly what I would want to eat. People think I'm nicer than I really am, but the truth is, I only like to serve others on my terms. I find it easy and comfortable to serve my "neighbors" on a temporary, short term basis. Mission trips, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are my favorite service projects because I can make an impact without having to follow up on anything. When the event is over, we all depart and return to our normal lives. Of course, certain experiences leave a lasting impression, but I continue to go about my business.
Clearly, this thinking is backwards. It is this thought-process that allows me to distance myself from others and stay in my own shallow world. I find it harder and harder to maintain lasting relationships, especially with people that cannot relate to my daily lifestyle. Blogging has unintentionally enabled me to me have one-sided relationships. People that read the blog (and there are a surprising number of you!) know intimate details about my life, while I know very little about their lives.
One of my goals is to develop more authentic relationships with people. It's coming up on one year since the death of my sister-in-law, and I will forever regret not answering her many calls and texts to visit or just to check in on me. I had the opportunity to have a closer relationship with her, and I missed out on it. I pray that I can reach out to others and develop intimate relationships with my "neighbors". This does not come naturally for me and requires me to be very intentional. Here are a few of my recent attempts:
1. My aunt is battling not one, but two different types of cancer. I feel completely inadequate when talking to her because I know there's nothing I can say or do to change things. I keep going back to the verse of loving your neighbor and thinking, "If I were fighting cancer, how would I want those around me to show support?" I would want people to be prayerful and optimistic, without ignoring the reality or severity of my health. I found this necklace on Etsy and am having it custom made, and sending it along with a thoughtful card. It's a simple and seemingly insignificant gesture, and something I wouldn't normally do.
2. There are multiple people who are long overdue to receive a simple thank you or thinking of you card from me. I have absolutely no excuse for not acknowledging their kindness or impact on my life. Walgreens was running a special on custom cards, so I personalized a few cards for friends, an aunt, my MFM, and Jackson's preschool teachers.
3. Our former next-door neighbor just moved out and a new one moved in last week. To be perfectly honest, I don't even know the name of our former neighbor or any other detail about his life besides his address-and we lived beside him for four years! I gave our new neighbor a few days to settle in, then rang his doorbell and invited him over for dinner that night (much to Jesse's disliking). He seems to be a remarkable man who has endured much more than anyone should in the past year (including surviving as an onlooker at the Boston Marathon finish line and losing his wife of over 40 years to cancer). I felt completely blessed to be able to share stories with him over homemade pot pie and a misbehaving toddler.
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