If you’re part of the Christian tradition then you have probably heard the story of the good Samaritan more times than you can count. A man is traveling along a road when he is beaten, robbed, and left for dead in a ditch. A couple of people who would have been held in pretty high regard as model citizens by the society of that time come across him and go out of their way to avoid helping him. Then a man, a lowly Samaritan, despised by much of society, happens upon him. The Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds on the side of the road, helped him up upon the Samaritan’s donkey, and took him to an inn to recover, even giving the innkeeper some money to cover the expenses of his stay at the inn.
My wife and I recently purchased a home and moved into a modern day Samaria. Right here in the capitol of North Carolina. Ask a random person downtown what they know about my neighborhood, and they will likely have to ask you where it is, because no one bothers to learn the names of the neighborhoods in my part of the city. Once they get an idea of the general area which you are talking about, then immediately it becomes clear that their only familiarity with my neighborhood is the reports of drugs, shootings, and other criminal activity that get covered by the news. While you may be hard-pressed to find anyone to admit it, a lot of people operate under the assumption that nothing good can come from there.
But I’m discovering that I have a lot to learn about being a good neighbor from the Samaritans that live on my street. Last week, one of my neighbors mowed our front lawn because he was “in the zone and feeling good.” On Friday morning, I awoke to discover that another had already taken our trash to the curb, and the sun hadn’t even come up yet. On Saturday, I took my dog Jack for a walk, and we ended up running into a group of kids from my street playing several blocks away at their aunt’s house. They were pretty excited to see us, running down the street, waving their arms while yelling to get our attention and make sure we stopped. Immediately they recognized how hot Jack was from our walk, and all six of them scrambled back to their aunt’s house attempting to be the first one to find a container (in this case the pot from an old rice cooker) to fill with water for him. Half of it sloshed out in their haste to get back to us, but Jack didn’t seem to mind. As Jack gratefully lapped up the water these six kids — the oldest of whom is no more than ten — had brought him, the phrase “small things with great love” from Mother Teresa struck me in a whole new light.
Samaritans make the best neighbors, because the secrets to the art of being a good neighbor are usually hidden in places like Samaria. You just have to pay close enough attention. Come travel through my neighborhood and see for yourself.