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Building Friendships in our Communities

Today at church I spoke with a neighbor who was born in Guatemala. She’s been in my neighborhood for the entire eighteen years that I have been here. I’ve not known her for that long, because somehow communities of Spanish speakers and English speakers can live intermixed with each other without actually mixing very much. I asked her what our congregation and neighborhood can do to reach out to our neighbors who weren’t born in the US and who might be feeling scared because of the current political climate.

Her answer was very simple: Just be friends.

Be the neighbor who introduces themselves and says “glad you’re in our neighborhood.” Take time to reach out and smile even if you don’t share a common language. Find out your neighbor’s names. Invite them to local events. Ask after their children. We’re all far more similar than we are different, no matter where we were born.

These are not things that come naturally to me. I tend to hide in my house not talking to people unless I have to. But I’m going to try to be better.

I’ve also assigned myself to do something my neighbor didn’t suggest. I’m going to try to be more aware when I’m out in the world. I want to be more ready to step in and help. I want to be mentally prepared to intercede if I see someone being treated poorly.

The national news is filled with events that are distressing to me. I see so much division and anger. I see appalling and crazy behavior at the highest levels of public attention. The solution to all of this is not a top down solution. Replacing people at the top wouldn’t solve all the emotion, it would just make a different subset of people scared. The real healing will have to come from the bottom up. It will come from people literally loving their neighbors and reaching out to help them. It will come from people being good and kind to those who think and believe differently. It starts with each of us being willing to extend ourselves to serve others a little bit more.

Today at church I learned from one of my neighbors. I also learned about a community service website that seeks to be a sort of Craigslist for people seeking volunteers and people who want to be volunteers. It is justserve.org . It looks like it may be a good tool for people who want to reach out a bit more, help a bit more, love others a bit more. People connecting with each other in our own communities is how we heal our country.

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