Singapore has a bird song ritual. Each Sunday, residents bring their house birds to the city park for a weekly airing. They carry them in dainty cages, which they hang from long horizontal poles of bright colors.
“The cages are each a beautiful work of art,” says Elizabeth Sherrill, describing her visit to Singapore in an issue of Guideposts. “They are made of bamboo, brass or teakwood, with hand-carved ivory swings and ladders, and porcelain water dishes.” She says, “They looked like miniature palaces as the birds hopped excitedly, chirping from perch to perch.”
When Elizabeth asked an elderly bird owner the reason for the airings, he answered: “We bring them together to learn each other’s songs.”
When one voice sings a solo, it’s beautiful! When blended voices sing the same song, the sound can be magnificent.
This is true in a neighborhood. As one person, you can be a good neighbor, but if many people come together, the result is a built-in support system just a short walk away. Having trustworthy neighbors in a kind, friendly neighborhood is called success.
Not everyone is interested in becoming a good neighbor and being available in times of need. Some prefer looking the other way or closing the door quickly when arriving home. The challenge of being a good neighbor involves being friendly and likable.
In the Good Samaritan parable in Luke 10:25-37, a traveler comes upon a stranger who was attacked, robbed, beaten and left to die. A priest and a Levite see the man lying by the side of the road but are unwilling to get involved. The traveler, a Samaritan, decides to be a good neighbor. He stops, bandages the man’s wounds, loads him on his donkey and takes him to a local inn. He even pays for the injured man’s future care.
If we were to act on a strongly held belief in God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), what would that look like? Would it mean making the needs of others, particularly those who live close to us, our priority? Being a good neighbor should not be complicated. It’s only a few steps from being a stranger to becoming an acquaintance and building a relationship.
Earlier this month, Lancaster County neighbors came out by the thousands to unite our hearts by praying and singing together at our National Day of Prayer gathering. You could sense the love and unity in our community. If you live in a neighborhood near praying people who honor and worship God, it’s sure to come up in their conversations. It’s a natural reaction for them to care and pray for you because they are driven by God’s activity in their own lives.
Love for one another deepens when we are honest in sharing our hearts. “Do things for people, not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are,” Rabbi Harold S.Kushner famously said.
When kind neighbors reach out to one another, good things happen in our communities.
One very snowy late afternoon, when the snowplow still hadn’t arrived on our street, I had an idea. I checked my freezer to see if I had enough ingredients to make a big pot of beef stew. Then I invited three neighbor families over for dinner. We had a good time sharing stories. All came except one man who was feeling ill. His wife came and told of her husband being very ill with cancer. He has since died, but loving our sweet neighbors and praying for him became easy as we reached out in their time of need.
God’s kingdom is big and covers the earth. So who is our neighbor? No line can be drawn when friendly people are in relationships with one another. Love comes naturally, and respect and unity happen.
Listen to the birds singing, their songs blending together in our neighborhoods. “Even the sparrow has found a home … a place near your altar, Lord Almighty” (Psalm 84:3).
Our world would become safer and more peaceful and offer an amazing support system if we all became good, friendly neighbors.
Dona Fisher is vice president of Friendship Foundation Inc. She is also an LNP correspondent. Email her at dfisher@friendshipfoundation. org.