Our neighbor got a puppy. A cute miniature pinscher that loves to run and play and has a bark that can be heard from here to Timbuktu. It likes to bark at squirrels, people, acorns falling, and I’m pretty sure, the wind. We tolerated the barking for weeks, trying not to complain so we weren’t “those kind of neighbors”. Finally, one evening we couldn’t take it anymore. This was going to be a cage match—two will enter, one will leave victorious. It’s possible I’m being dramatic. Anyway, I popped over to my neighbor’s house which is on the block behind us, and rang the bell. It took almost five minutes for the woman to get her three dogs corralled in a back room so she could open the door. Did I mention she also has two corgis? She does.
After the introductions, I delicately mentioned that her new dog’s bark was becoming bothersome. She seemed a little defensive but after I mentioned how beautiful we think her yard is, she softened. Our conversation lasted for over thirty minutes. She shared her victory over lymphoma. She shared her stress over a leak below their house which will require all their floors to be ripped out. We talked about our other neighbors. I learned a woman two doors down just suddenly lost her husband to a brain tumor. An elderly gentleman across the street is desperately struggling with loneliness. A man who lives on the corner is dealing with failing health. These are some weighty burdens! I told her I would be praying, but stopped. I instead asked if I could pray with her right then and there. We grasped hands and lifted up her victories, concerns, and our neighborhood. It was such a special moment.
My eyes were opened that night. I’ve been teaching others at Riverside that poverty is more than lack of material goods, but I got to see that right in my own neighborhood. Poverty takes many forms. We can have poverty in our relationship with God, in relationship with others, in understanding ourselves and with creation. Your neighbor has it, and so do you. We all struggle with poverty and need the saving grace of Christ. The amazing part is, God wants to use you and me to be a healing balm to those in poverty right next door.
How do we start being the hands and feet of Christ to our neighbors? I’m glad you asked! Sacrifice. It makes us cringe, avert our eyes, think of our “to do list,” name all the ways we’re already serving—but, if we desire to follow Christ, sacrifice it will be, for that is the example He set before us. For Jason and me this will include inviting that lonely gentleman over for dinner, even while I’m struggling with health issues. It will be stopping by the widow’s house to introduce myself and offer company. It will be free babysitting for my neighbor’s one-year-old several days over the next two weeks as she cares for her ailing mother. It will be sharing Christ’s love with those who don’t know Him in word and deed.
So where is the poverty in your neighborhood? Is it a lack of food, no way to get to work, a leaky roof? Is it someone with no community? Do you know someone who is far from the Lord? Does your neighbor see themselves as so unworthy that they self-harm? Poverty is there, my friend, and so are you. God has placed you in your neighborhood at this specific time for a specific reason. So go complain about your neighbor’s barking dog (or maybe just introduce yourself), you never know what you’ll find out.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40
— Cassie Selin