As a teenager I went looking for “help wanted” signs, scouring my local newspaper and walking from store front to store front in search of work. This sing, the “help wanted” sign, is a sign that most, if not all, of us are familiar with. We’ve seen them in windows, on the web, in newspapers and even posted on cork board at the local grocery store.
Take a moment and you will quickly realize that there is “help wanted” everywhere.
It only took moments looking up into the sky yesterday evening to realize that a drastic shift in our weather pattern was immanent – from the dark clouds rapidly sweeping across the sky to the howling winds, it wasn’t long before hail angrily fell slapping against each house in my neighborhood and crashing down on everything in it’s path. While this in and of itself was an impressive display of “mother nature” fast at work, the storm was coupled with roaring thunder and a brilliant display of flashes as lightning struck across the sky. It was in these moments that I witnessed lightning blasting through a large, 25 year old, 50 foot tree in my next-door neighbor’s front yard; two-thirds of the tree plummeting down to the ground, covering both my neighbor’s driveway and mine. It was loud. It was fast. It was destructive and it left an incredible mess including a gross portion of the tree flexing atop my neighbor’s roof, threatening to finish falling, right through their kitchen windows and beyond.
Fast forward no more than thirty minutes and you can envision the destruction all around as well as seemingly countless people from our cul-de-sac and community converging on the scene to serve as spectators of the tragedy and looming situation of what remained of the tree still standing.
It was in this moment that I became consciously aware of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel, “Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mt. 22:39)
Love. What an interesting word, one that carries an incredible amount of meaning, yet can be absolutely meaningless when taken out of context.
Throughout the Bible there are 5 words used to describe love, each with a specific description and utilization, none of which is more important than the kind of love that Jesus exhibits – “agape”, or an undeserved love given without condition. Incredible! This is the same kind of love that Jesus directs his followers to exercise to their neighbors.
For some context, my neighbors were born into and celebrate a different culture than myself. As Buddhists, they have their values and convictions, all be it very different than those of mine as a Protestant-evangelical Christian. Though their practices are dramatically different than mine as are their system of beliefs, I still celebrate the fact that they are my neighbors.
What is a neighbor, you might ask? By definition (Biblehub), a neighbor is that person whom is “nearby” or in close proximity to you. Nowhere does it delineate where our beliefs have to be the same or our color of skin or our family values or our socio-economic status. Instead, Jesus simply calls us to love those (every one of those) around us.
I took this opportunity, and the conviction that God had so clearly placed on my heart, to invite some friends from my church community to come over and help me help my neighbor by clearing their driveway, piecing out the large limbs to make them manageable for removal and to finish the job that the lightning started by cutting down the remainder of the tree. Within minutes a truck and the three folks that I called pulled into our cul-de-sac with two chainsaws at the ready. Together, my neighbor and his family, me and my family, the neighbors from across the way and the folks from my church worked together for better than 2 hours; hand-in-hand, step-by-step, to clear the debris and to cut down the monster that lay in the wait. It was hot. We were sweaty. The work was heavy and taxing at times. Yet, together we were able to get the tree down, cut it into chords of wood and clear out their driveway and mine.
It was incredible and I am glad that God allowed me an opportunity to be a part of loving my neighbor in this way.
While this is my story, there are countless other stories like mine. What’s more is that these other stories are not confined to one moment in time in which a storm left an immediate need where there was help wanted. No. Instead, there are countless people all around each day with considerable needs that you and I have not only the opportunity, but also an incredible responsibility to be a part of working toward meeting these needs.
The elderly woman who isn’t able to cut her grass or the man who is standing on the side of the road hungry and hurting. The child who can’t read but desperately desires to, to the family stranded on the side of the road with a blown-out tire: there is more “help wanted” folks than I have time to mention here.
I want to encourage you to consider what impact you can have by simply being a “neighbor”; by exhibiting love to others the way that you want to be loved, the way that Jesus calls us to live and love. What could this look like? Who would benefit from this way of living? How much better would the community around you become if you set the tone and tenor for what being a neighbor looks like?
My belief is that there are countless “help wanted” signs that people are posting all around us. The question isn’t whether or not there is need. The question is if you and I are willing to step up and step in to give the help, lend a hand and be a neighbor in the truest sense of the word.