I went to a meeting today. The meeting was filled with women from 29 to over 60. There was one man in attendance. We sat in a crowded room filled with false hopes and diminishing resources trying to find the solution for funding the programs that help the impoverished in our neighborhoods and communities and the county at large.
While I sat there listening to the stories of unnamed clients going without it saddened my heart that so many people in my community, where I live showed a reflection of poverty to me. With a funding cut of over $13,000 that could be used to lift our people, my people, up in this world, there seemed to be an air of discouraged hope, but hope nonetheless.
But hearing that my neighbors were going without, made me think that if the weight of their care lay in the communities where we lived, we could do so much more. And even with that realization that we’ve become so disconnected from one another, so caught up in our own daily lives that we no longer take that time to breathe life into the very neighborhoods in which we come home to.
I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I hated that I felt out of place in wanting my people, your people, their people, our people to feel the love of community. The feeling of unity left in the gravel roads of unkempt, overgrown, weeded horrors that grow the mold of fruitless living inspired by poverty to excuse our dismissal of their humanity. The refusal to understand that the human life we live, they live, I live is not transcendent in the sense that when that next meal becomes a harboring of resentment against full refrigerators, cupboards, and pantry’s and the only thing to eat in the house is Ramen noodles, hot dogs, or macaroni and cheese again because that’s all there is. Why?
Understanding the problem is not the issue. Believing that a change can be made is not the issue. It’s the hands that we have as a people that are the issue. The hands that turn away our brothers and sisters from their basic needs being met. It’s the hands that raise up against social programs that benefit our communities by raising children who don’t have to worry if they can eat more than subsidized school lunches while surviving the summers with hopes that someone will see their condition but praying against all hope they don’t.
I believe in Love Thy Neighbor. I believe that love brings a meal over to the ailing neighbor. I believe that love brings resources into the places where we live and blooms them into a sense of hope and belonging. I believe that loving thy neighbor is more than just a Bible verse, but the very act of using our hands to bring goodwill, food, clothing, and hope to everyone.
Who am I to call someone else lazy? Who am I to look down my nose because you lost your job and can’t support your family right now? Who am I to cast that first stone against your situation when my own cupboards barely keep my family fed. I am nobody to judge anybody for their situation. I don’t have nor would I want that power. Instead, I propose a radical change with our hands.
Use those hands to feed the hungry. Use your hands to help an elderly neighbor do their yard work. Use those hands to comfort a new mother who is overwhelmed with the responsibility. Use those hands to drive a neighbor to the store when they need it. Use those hands to call in reinforcements when the battles get to long and hard and your people, your neighbors, our communities are falling to violence. Use those hands to reach out to one another in kindness and compassion.
Their story doesn’t have to match your experience. Their beliefs don’t have to match yours. Their choices are not a reflection of you, but they are the faces of the people you live among. They are your geographical tribe by need, necessity, or choice. Every one of these people, in all their humanity, with all of their faults and triumphs is a reflection of yourself. Reach out to your people with those hands who have held them with disdain and judgment. Remove the faulty assumptions and listen to the words they speak for they may teach you compassion, kindness, or the sincerest of needs and desires that you may have the gifts to fulfill.
Love Thy Neighbor. That’s what I believe in without question.