In San Francisco, we have an abundance of neighbors. We split apartments, cram in cubicles, jam in elevators, squeeze on buses, get shoved on sidewalks, and so by the time we get home, all we want is a little privacy and personal space. Because of this, we often have an abundance of nameless neighbors.
For Lent this year, when I took up the daily discipline of reciting Mark 12:28-34, the latter half which says: “Love your neighbor as yourself," it quickly became clear I didn't know who my neighbor was, much less how to love them. Yet Jesus's words are strong: I am asked to love my neighbor, the people I share space with on a frequent basis. And so I set out to figure out who these neighbors are, and how I could love them.
Every day I ride the bus to work, often with the same people. These are my neighbors. I am asked to love them, and do so by exercising kindness, patience, and selflessness.
My coworkers are my neighbors, and some days I pray a quick blessing over each by name before I get to work, and remind myself to be kind and patient, even when the day becomes stressful and frustrating.
When I go home, I make a point to spend time with my roommates, neighbors I share a kitchen and cable TV with. We share life together, and I work to love and support them through their highs and lows, a love they also show to me.
As my fiancé Josh and I prepared to move him into his new apartment (and my future home), we knew we wanted to be intentional about getting to know the people living around us. So one Sunday afternoon I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and Josh helped me pack them up, then we went knocking on doors. We left six plates of cookies by six unanswered doors, but on the seventh and final apartment our neighbor answered her door, and we introduced ourselves. Over the next week we received thank you notes (handwritten ones!), met a few people in the hallway, and we're learning it takes small, purposeful steps to be the loving presence we desire to be.
Most recently, our church teamed up with City Impact, an organization that serves the impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood. In an oddly parallel way, our group's job was to knock on doors and offer food to people. The experience hit home—we are called to love our city neighbors, and Josh and I realized we can and should be involved in a deeper way with organizations that love through actions those who need it.
In all these ways, I'm starting to figure out what it means to love my neighbor, but it's a learning process. I know that God has directed me to this building, this hallway, this bus route, this cubicle, this neighborhood so that I can be intentional about loving the other people who share that space. I continue to pray, "Let me love my neighbor as myself," believing God will act in ways I don't yet see.
Who do you share space with and how do you love them? What advice would you give a neighbor newbie like me?
Katy Renz is an Associate Editor at HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, where she is happily surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. She’s engaged to her smart, funny, and kind fiancé Josh, and together they’re setting out to craft intentional, authentic stories that make God’s love real to all in the city they love to call home, San Francisco. To read more stories from Katy’s life, visit her blog at: http://katyrenz.com/.