On Labour Day I found myself with a free afternoon. Can you believe it? A whole half-a-day with nothing planned. It was a surprise to have free time and in a way I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So we did what anybody with free time does, we filled it up.
One of the most common challenges facing people who want to be good neighbours is the simple lack of time. Deep down we want to create space to sit on the porch, have people over for coffee, or help a neighbour fix their deck – but we just don’t have the time to spare. Even as a pastor, someone whose calling it is to make time for others, I find my minutes and hours fly by. On my worst days I find I am scattered, rushing, and shooting past those important moments and people that God brings across my path. Even today I got an email advertisement with resources to help me “save time planning your sermons!” I cringe at the idea of zipping through life burning through the limited time I have. When I live at that frantic pace, I find that it’s not my time, but me, that gets burned.
Yet even at our worst and most frantic pace, we can posture our lives to leave room for the unexpected interruptions of a neighbour. On busy days we view our street as merely the location of our home or the place we drive through. But it may be possible, even in the fast pace of most of our lives, to see our neighbourhood differently. Our neighbourhoods and the people around us have the potential to be a life-giving retreat from the harried demands we carry.
When we come to know our neighbours and enjoy their company in intentional ways, we look forward to seeing them. Our best neighbours become ‘good news,’ people we’re happy to know and who give us life. Even those with the busiest schedules can easily make time for their favourite people. In fact, we’ll bend over backwards to spend time with people we care about. I love images of powerful world leaders leaning down to hug their children. A busy Prime Minister or President always has time for the people they love. In this way, time is not the challenge. Rather we’re learning to see our neighbours as people worthy of our time. We’re learning to see neighbours as beloved.
When it comes to finding time for our neighbours, it’s less about fixing our schedules and more about seeing the people around us in new ways. When the crowds of people came around Jesus, including masses of kids, Jesus’s close followers tried to push the children away. They thought Jesus wouldn’t have the time or the energy to care for these kids. Yet Jesus saw them differently. Jesus loved the people and it was that love that seemed to make more than enough room (and time) for people who wanted to be close to him. What would it look like for you to “love your neighbour?” How would that change the way you give time to the people around you?