by Matt Hein
I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS. Each episode began with Fred Rogers inviting me into his neighborhood and home as he sang, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine, won’t you be mine?” Recently, while watching an episode of Mister Rogers with my children, I noticed something during that opening song. No one is grilling!
As each episode begins, the camera pans across Mister Rogers’ neighborhood and the music begins to play. But Mister Rogers’ neighborhood is a model, a scale replica of a neighborhood. No one actually lives in this perfect neighborhood. No one is driving, the model people are not moving, the trees never lose their leaves, and there is no smoke in the air because no one is grilling. I know this does not surprise you if you have seen Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood but it does force me to think about my real neighborhood.
About five weeks ago my family moved into our new neighborhood and we discovered something. Real people live in our neighborhood! I realize this does not surprise you, either. They drive real cars, have real houses, put out real garbage, take care of real children, mow real lawns, etc. They also have real names and real stories just like my family does. And God planted us in our neighborhood with all of these people.
He has called us to follow Jesus in our neighborhood by being a good neighbor. If my family takes seriously Jesus’ words that disciples are to love God and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39), then among all the people in our family life, we have literal neighbors who Jesus intends for us to love. And loving them means we need to know who they are.
He has called us to follow Jesus in our neighborhood by being a good neighbor.
What does your neighborhood look like? Have you lived there for a few weeks like our family or have you lived there over twenty years? Chances are you know something about your neighbors. Perhaps you see your neighbor as he waters his lawn or as she walks the dog. You know the family whose children scream wildly as they run in their back yard.
You know the home with the trashcan that overflows into the street each week. You’ve always been curious about the house where no one ever emerges. You know your neighborhood at some level and they know you. This is the neighborhood where God has planted you. Do you know their names, their stories, their hurts and joys? God loves them and planted you with them as their neighbor.
Let’s get to know our literal neighbors this month of August. Before the school year kicks off and schedules get filled, let’s create opportunities for getting to know the neighbors God has placed around us. My family wants to see smoke rising in our neighborhood so we are committing to host a “neighborhood” barbeque. We’ll make and deliver invitations, setting up our grill in the front yard, and enjoy eating with the people who come. Our goals will be simple: make good food, eat good food, and enjoy getting to know the people who live around us. We can’t wait to see who comes and joins in.
Before the school year kicks off and schedules get filled, let’s create opportunities for getting to know the neighbors God has placed around us.
What will your opportunity look like? Will you invite the three or four houses immediately around you to come over for s’mores around your fire pit? Will you join with another St. Luke family in your neighborhood to throw a block party? Will you invite one neighbor over for a glass of lemonade after they are done mowing the lawn?
If you are already connected in your neighborhood, what could you do together to get to know even more people around you? Whatever you choose to do, join with other St. Luke families in being good neighbors this August by creating a neighborhood opportunity to begin to know the people around you.