A good friend from college is expecting a baby this summer. Since she lives in Guatemala, and I am sending some students to serve with her work over spring break, I asked if I could send some things down with them.
As we arranged things, she suggested I write about this dynamic: “Sometimes social justice is sharing and looking out for needs with those you already know,” she said.
I got to thinking about that. In my experience, we spend most of our time understanding what it means to love a neighbor we don’t want or don’t consider a neighbor. That is, after all, the point of the Good Samaritan parable.
[If you’re unfamiliar with the parable, here’s the short version. A guy asks Jesus who counts as a neighbor when it comes to this whole “Love thy neighbor” deal. Jesus tells a story: a man is walking down the road and gets mugged and left for dead. Good, religious guy #1 walks by and leaves him. Good, religious guy #2 walks by and leaves him. Samaritan guy (cue ‘eww’ response from all Jews) walks by and helps him, taking care of his injuries and paying for his care while he recovers. Bam. Neighbored.]
But what about our responsibility to the neighbors that we like? What about the people around us who aren’t intrinsically challenging? I wonder if we sometimes take for granted that we love them like we should. There’s a sense that “we got this covered” when it comes to people who are not as hard to love.
But just because loving them is easier to do, does that mean we are actually doing it?
Justice is about standing on the side of what is right in the world. That includes big things, like peace over violence and equality over oppression. But there are smaller ways we stand for what is right–when we speak kindness, give our attention, and take care of others. Those small acts are tangible ways we honor another person. We respect their worth by treating them well, and that is no less true when we are with someone we love versus someone we struggle to like.
I have friends that it is my responsibility to love, listen to and take care of. They are my circle, my tribe, and if I opt out of caring for them like I should, no one else will step into that gap.
And they do the same for me.
Right now, we have an 8 weeks old baby who will not eat while I am at work. Not eating leads to hours of screaming leads to a husband who feels like his own kiddo doesn’t like him. It hurts his daddy heart. We’ve called in reinforcements, reaching out to everyone we know who might have any free time during the workday. And they’ve shown up, saving his sanity and holding our screamer and helping us get through this phases day by day, hour by hour.
We need these people so badly. And their care for us is not just a nice thing to do or a favor we’re calling in. We literally don’t know how we’d get through this season without them.