PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,
Love Thy Neighbor
by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea
Earlier this summer, standing in a line of several hundred local protestors raising our outrage at the separation of asylum-seeking parents from their children, the woman next to Christina was holding a sign that simply said, “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.” As we began talking with her, she said: “Everything depends on this: Will we or won’t we love our neighbors? I think our ability to address any of the issues facing us is based on our answer, personally and collectively, to this challenge.” Christina thanked her for her straightforward teaching and was moved to post a short story about this interaction on her FaceBook page.
“It’s hard to love the neighbor who moves into your house uninvited.”
“Maybe we already are loving our neighbors, this woman’s sign implies that we are not doing it enough, or appropriately.”
Christina could have deleted these comments, but decided to let them remain for people to think about. And our thinking about them has led to this newsletter topic.
Love thy neighbor is a practice in civility, in dialogue, and in entering situations with curiosity instead of judgment. And most of all, it’s taking time to slow down and listen. It is an invitation to inquire, to show up fresh and ready to see what is possible now in terms of communication, understanding, and connection.
The comment about “hard to love a neighbor who just moves into your house,” made us smile – because that is the very definition of a neighbor: someone who moves alongside our lives without being invited. The apartment down the hall goes up for rent, the house next door goes up for sale. After a while, the moving van shows up and the new person or people move in… without asking, without introduction, without being vetted by the folks already in residence: Hello, we’re here.
We found out later that the sellers had ongoing issues with their neighbors and were eager to start over somewhere else. We found out they thought that selling to us (two women with two Asian teens) was a parting punishment to the neighborhood. Turns out, we weren’t such bad people (neither were the teens). And it turns out the neighborhood is full of well-meaning people able to manage our differences and extend gestures of support, kindliness, and acquaintanceship to one another.
None of us were born here. We are mainlanders who came ashore, discovered, and now love the island life: one might call us “immigrants.” We don’t think of ourselves that way, we proudly proclaim that we’re islanders now, even the “newbies” say this – and the newbies keep coming. And every now and then the “oldbies” sit on our decks and talk about the stress of all this immigration to our particular sense of community and how we wish – now that we are safely here – that no one else would come. Oh, a little chain migration would be okay, welcoming extended family or friends, people safely in the category of “just like us.” But that is not America today: that has never been America.
Huge issues cause such dislocation. We can’t even fathom most of it, but every day we can practice ways to welcome the stranger, to help people feel at home, to love our neighbor. This is the American behavior that is deeply needed at this time.