When we choose to love others, especially our neighbours, we discover an uncomfortable reality waiting for us: people are sometimes hard to love. We might feel like we need to make sense of this and explain ourselves out of loving our complex and messy neighbours. Maybe they are different, odd, angry, too talkative or too shy. Maybe they are much older or younger. Maybe they are from another country, speak another language, or eat different food. Maybe their religion or their work makes us step away, or maybe they are downright insulting, or strangely too friendly. We can come up with laundry lists of why we tried to love our neighbours, but felt that they simply were not lovable. So we turn and look for someone who is easier to know and love. The circle of people we call neighbours, when tested, can get pretty tight. After a few years in our neighbourhoods we might only care for a few people, and often they look and act a lot like us.
In our search for ease, comfort, and predictability we have trained ourselves to jettison anything, or anybody, who does not add to our lifestyle. If someone does not quickly demonstrate that they can make our day suddenly happier, then they find their way to the sidelines of our lives. But we might be missing out on something essential here.
Neighbourism is not about asking you to turn to your neighbours as a source of ease. Neighbourism is about finding something way more valuable between you and them. When we choose to love our neighbours, including the oddballs, big-talkers, and whoever else might make us slightly uncomfortable, we’re setting ourselves up for a whole new way to live and be present in our community.
The life of ease, and the pursuit of it, is actually very hard. We find that in our search for constant comfort that most people become a disappointment. People dedicated to a life of ease find themselves, at the end of it all, alone and unknown. There is nothing easy about that at all.
Yet when we open ourselves to the possibility of experiencing our neighbours in all of their strangeness, we step forward with a new pursuit. When we are no longer interested in ease, we free ourselves from trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable. What we exchange for ease, we gain in trust, friendship, hope, relationship, humility, and love. We become known and part of the fabric of our community. We become human again.
People are complex, and so are you. But when we set aside our need to be always at ease, we find that it might actually be easier to step boldly into our neighbourhood and simply love people as they are. There might be an awkward conversation here or there, but these too will become part of your unfolding story. Because on the other side of strange encounters, language barriers, and messiness you might find a group of people who welcome you; and here’s nothing easier than coming home.