The Holy Work of Being a Neighbor and a Friend

I know I’ve been pretty quiet lately. My apologies. I’ve had a bit of thinking, grieving, and processing to do after a number of painful events in the last year. I would say I’ve been in a pretty dark place, but I think I’m finally beginning to come out of the quiet state. Thanks for your prayers.

I had a moment of realization today that I’d like to share with you. People often place Koinonia and the work we do up high on a pedestal, maybe even with good intentions. But when they come to realize how ordinary the people are who live this life, or when we don’t do all the amazing things they expect of us, then they lose respect for us and criticize our imperfect state (as if we didn’t already know how imperfect we are).

I think we humans are prone to placing people on pedestals. I know I can fall prey to it. We place others up high because we need someone to look up to, or something to inspire us from our laziness. Perhaps some of us just want to be assured that somebody in the world is up to something good. Or maybe we place people up so high above us so that we don’t have to feel guilty when we aren’t  doing equally as good of works.

I’m often reminded of Dorothy Day’s phrase, “Don’t call me a saint.” If we call someone a saint, it automatically makes them “untouchable,” out of our league, way better than we can ever be. I also think of Mother Teresa, who said, “You have to be holy in your position as you are, and I have to be holy in the position that God has put me. So it is nothing extraordinary to be holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few. Holiness is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that.”

The most noble work anyone can be about is being a neighbor, being a friend. That’s the life I seek and others seek here at Koinonia. And being a friend isn’t always glamorous. It isn’t always something we can put in a monthly newsletter and mail to 10,000 people around the globe. Friendship isn’t always something you can snap a pretty photo of and put it in a newspaper to send to more than 21,000 people around the world. Many times, being a good neighbor is a simple act, much too simple to capture for any “social” media outlet. Heck, sometimes we don’t even realize when we’re being a good neighbor. And many more times we utterly fail at even coming close to being a good friend or neighbor.

The work I am committed to here on this patch of land in Georgia is holy work that can be done by anybody, anywhere. It doesn’t take “brand recognition” to love your neighbor. It doesn’t take a hammer, some boards, and a new home to show you value a human’s existence enough to treat him/her as an equal, worthy of a decent home. It doesn’t even take a lot of money to offer hospitality to somebody in need or visit with the sick and dying. All it takes is a bit of thoughtfulness and a willing spirit. If we have these things, God provides the grace to make it all worth the pain and sweat it takes to build a good friendship. When we cooperate with God’s grace, miracles happen. We see the divine peeping into our ordinary life. And we revel in the glory of God’s presence in such a humble place.

But sometimes we don’t get to witness the miracles. They don’t happen every second of every day – we would be living fully in the Kingdom of God if this were the case. Sometimes we’re stuck with plain ol’ mundane life, filled with awkward encounters, miscommunication, unrealized potential, unmet expectations, and really puffed up and flawed human beings. But if we’re honest, we’ll admit that God is in all those things, too. Jesus can be seen even in the most unexpected places, if we’re willing to have eyes that see and ears that hear God’s spirit.

Above is a photo I snapped recently of two students in our Educational Cooperative. (Shhh. They don’t know I got this photo.) I think it portrays the best image of friendship – acceptance, comfort, and love. Embrace one another, embrace God.

(Maybe I should write more about all the times we at Koinonia fail to be good neighbors so people can have the opportunity to see God in our imperfections, too.)


One thought on “The Holy Work of Being a Neighbor and a Friend

  1. Pingback: In the First Place « Turning Dreams Into Deeds

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