Good Neighbors Are an Asset
“Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far away.”—Proverbs 27:10.
A SCHOLAR in the first century C.E. asked Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus told him, not who his neighbor was, but what makes a real neighbor. You are likely familiar with Jesus’ illustration. It is known by many as the parable of the neighborly Samaritan and is recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Here is how Jesus told the story:
“A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan traveling the road came upon him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’ Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?”—Luke 10:29-36.
The scholar evidently got the point. Without hesitation he correctly identified the one who was a neighbor to the wounded man: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Jesus then said to him: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.” (Luke 10:37) What a forceful illustration of what it means to be a real neighbor! Jesus’ parable may even prompt us to ask ourselves: ‘What kind of neighbor am I? Does my racial or national background influence me in determining who my neighbors are? Do such factors limit my obligation to help any fellowman whom I see in trouble? Do I go out of my way to be a good neighbor?’
Where to Start?
If we feel the need to improve in this matter, we must begin with our mental attitude. Our concerns should center on being a good neighbor. This can also contribute to our having good neighbors. Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus stressed that important principle of human relations in his famous Sermon on the Mount. He said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Treating others with respect, dignity, and kindness encourages them to treat you the same way.
In the article “Loving Thy Neighborhood,” appearing in the magazine The Nation Since 1865, journalist and author Lise Funderburg mentioned some simple things that can be done to encourage neighborliness. She wrote: “I want . . . points of intersection to be contained in the myriad small favors neighbors do for each other—taking in newspapers, watching children, picking up something at the store. I want this proximity in an increasingly alienated world, where communities are made fragile by fear and crime.” She then adds: “You have to start somewhere. And it might as well be next door.”
The magazine Canadian Geographic also made a helpful point that can assist neighbors in developing a healthy attitude toward one another. Writer Marni Jackson observed: “Neighbours, like family, are people in your life that you don’t always get to choose. The relationships call for tact, a certain courtliness and tolerance.”
Good Neighbors—Good Givers
Granted, many of us may feel awkward about approaching neighbors. It may seem a lot easier to avoid contact and to isolate ourselves. However, the Bible says that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Therefore, a good neighbor endeavors to make an effort to acquaint himself with people around him. While not necessarily wanting to develop close friendships, he goes to the trouble of exchanging a few words from time to time, perhaps starting just with a friendly smile or gesture.
As stated above, it is “the myriad small favors” that neighbors do for one another that really count in establishing and maintaining neighborly relationships. So it is good to look for small expressions of kindness that you can show a neighbor, for this will often promote a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. Moreover, by doing so, we will follow the Biblical admonition: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.”—Proverbs 3:27; James 2:14-17.
Good Neighbors—Gracious Receivers
It would be ideal if we could say that everyone receives help and gifts graciously. Unfortunately, this is not always so. Many offers of help and well-meaning gifts have been received so ungraciously that the sincere giver may think, ‘That is the last time I’ll do that!’ On occasion, all your efforts with friendly greetings and waves to your neighbors may elicit only a reluctant nod in return.
Yet, in many cases the receiver is actually not ungracious, although he may appear to be so on the surface. Perhaps his cultural background makes him hesitant or embarrassed and causes him to act in a casual, seemingly unfriendly manner. On the other hand, in this ungrateful world, some people may find your friendliness unusual, or may even suspect your motives. They may need some reassurance. Thus, establishing friendly relations may take time and patience. However, neighbors who learn the art of being good givers and gracious receivers will contribute to a neighborhood spirit that is peaceful and happy.
When Adversity Strikes
A good neighbor is an especially valuable asset when disaster strikes. During times of adversity, the true spirit of neighborliness is seen. There are many accounts of unselfish acts by neighbors during such times. The common tragedy seems to cause neighbors to cooperate spontaneously and to extend themselves in behalf of one another. Even those with opposing views will often work together.
For example, The New York Times reported that when a devastating earthquake hit Turkey in 1999, traditional enemies showed neighborly solidarity. “We have been taught to hate the Turks for years,” Greek columnist Anna Stergiou wrote in an Athens newspaper. “But their unbelievable pain gives us no joy. We were moved, we cried as if the age-old hatred disappeared at the sight of dead babies.” When rescue operations were officially stopped, Greek rescue teams refused to give up the search for survivors.
Engaging in rescue work after disasters strike is certainly a noble and heroic neighborly deed. Even so, to save a neighbor’s life by warning him before an adversity can surely be considered an even more valuable neighborly deed. Unfortunately, history reveals that those who warn neighbors of coming disasters are often not welcomed, since at the time of the warning, the impending disaster is not readily discernible. Those who sound a warning are often met with disbelief. It takes much persistence and self-sacrifice on the part of any who are trying to help individuals who are unaware of their precarious situation.
The Greatest Neighborly Deed
Today, something far more momentous than a natural disaster is coming upon mankind. It is the foretold act of Almighty God that will rid the earth of crime, wickedness, and associated problems. (Revelation 16:16; 21:3, 4) This momentous event is not a remote possibility but a certainty! Jehovah’s Witnesses are eager to share the knowledge needed to survive this impending world-shaking event with as many people as possible. That is why they engage so persistently in their well-known preaching activity throughout the world. (Matthew 24:14) They do this willingly, out of love for God and neighbor.
Therefore, do not let prejudice or irritation prevent you from listening when the Witnesses come to your door or approach you elsewhere. They are trying to be good neighbors. So accept their offer to study the Bible with you. Learn how God’s Word assures us that a future of joyful coexistence between neighbors is at hand. At that time, no more racial, religious, or class discrimination will ruin the cordial relationship that most of us really desire.
[Pictures on page 6, 7]
It is good to perform acts of kindness in your neighborhood
Globe: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.