First Words

Loving your neighbor starts with the people on your block

My five-year-old parishioner spent the summer going door to door.

When a lawyer asked Jesus one day, “Who is my neighbor?” the question presupposed that some people are not neighbors; that there are those we don’t have to care about. Spiritually, we know otherwise. No one is officially beyond the bounds of our concern. But loving all people requires we start somewhere. “The best preparation for loving the world at large,” John Henry Newman once preached, “is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection toward those who are immediately about us.”

Meet Lucy Carlson, a five-year-old in my congregation, who is starting with her neighborhood. In her household, honest conversation about current events is a regular occurrence. When national anger followed the death of George Floyd, Lucy was coloring on her front porch one morning. She said to her mom, “I think it’s important to know our neighbors. I’m going to meet them all. If they need help, I want them to know where I live so they can come to me for help. I’m going to have them sign my paper so I know their name. But not in cursive.”

The next day, carrying an enormous piece of paper and a pouch of Crayola markers, Lucy and her mom headed to the first house. The family was cleaning out the garage when Lucy stepped up confidently. “Hi. I’m Lucy, and this is my mom, Erin. We live across the street, and I think it’s important to know your neighbors. So, I want you to sign my paper. You can come to my house if you need help, and I’ll help you.”