Two Ways to Love My Neighbor as Myself (Part 1)
I remember that Christmas in my teen years like it was yesterday. Even though the kitchen was being remodeled, we had great plans for the day. Delicious food. Soft couches. Games of chess and Scrabble. A platter of favorite, Christmas-only candies. No huge family gathering, just the six children and our parents. Perfection.
Until, my dad decided to go pick up Bill.
Bill, of the infrequent showers and questionable mental capacity. Bill, of the hard of hearing. Bill, who had no family that we could tell. Bill, the eccentric, who always pushed back his plate and announced, “That was a good Christian meal!”
Somehow, my dad decided that Galatians 5:14 applied to this holiday. He must have concluded that, in this case, loving Bill as we loved ourselves meant that we pick him up and allow him to join our festivities and eat the candy we made. I guess Dad thought we would not want to spend Christmas alone in a one bedroom apartment with no humans except for the television.
Well, the funny thing is, we survived. I remember that Christmas better than most others. We found, oddly, that sharing our Christmas food and space did not diminish our joy. Oddly, it seemed to multiply it.
Why is it so hard then, to give up family time for someone else?
In today’s world, we are so busy. Once, a visitor meant news and escape from boredom. Although we got a taste of isolation with the coronavirus lockdown, for the most part, visitors can seem to overcrowd our already jammed social circuits. Add an unpleasant odor and other idiosyncrasies, and things are even more complicated and exhausting.
I’m so glad my dad did that on a Christmas long ago, because I don’t think I’m naturally good at inviting people in. I’m a typical writer, I suppose – I thrive in my favorite chair, surrounded by books and the company of my husband or closest friends.
But, in a world where people are constantly moving and going, community seems to have become even less practiced. Being able to share my favorite chair, my Scrabble game, my family, and my Mennonite culture and community means even more to people starved for true connection.
Thankfully, most Anabaptists are professionals at showing hospitality. But there is something even harder than inviting someone in. Harder, but possibly more important.
We’ll talk about that in the next post!