Monday, September 30, 2013

Like a good neighbor?

This Sunday, my local paper must have been short of content, so they throw in some page filler. And what did they use? Why, a second letter to Billy Graham of course. Lets look at the first one today, and the second one tomorrow.
Don't give up on unfriendly neighbor

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I feel sorry for our neighbor, because she’s getting up in years and doesn’t seem to have any relatives or friends who pay her much attention. I’ve tried to be friendly, but to be honest she doesn’t seem interested and I’ve about given up. Any suggestions? —  Mrs. B.L.

DEAR B.L.: We can’t force our friendship on another person, but we can let them know that we care about them and want to help them if they need us. And this may be the best you can do in this situation.

Don’t give up, however. God cares for your neighbor — and so should you, even if she seems indifferent. Some people are just shy; others may be suspicious of our motives; still others may simply not want to be bothered. But whatever her reasons, God put you next to her, and as you have opportunity let her know you care. The Bible says, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8).

This is especially important because of what you say about her age. Like many older people, she’s probably very independent and is determined to stay in her home as long as she can. But time takes its toll; gradually she may lose the ability to take care of herself. Or she may experience a fall or sudden illness, and will need your help.

Pray, too, for your neighbor, and ask God to help you be an example to her of Christ’s love and compassion. In addition, see if you can find out anything about her relatives, in case you need to contact them in an emergency. Even as he was hanging from the cross, Jesus made sure that one of his disciples was willing to provide for his mother, Mary (see John 19:26-27).
Actually no, God didn't bring BL to be her neighbor. A real estate agent and BL's favor toward the property did. But enough of that... Let's get down to business.

I find it odd that both Graham and BL instantly assume that the problem is with the elderly woman in question. However, we are presented with no facts to make such a judgment.  Yes, that is one possibility, but there are many others. One being that BL is actually the problem. If BL is genuinely that concerned with her neighbor liking her, that is a possibility that has to be entertained. If fact, it could be something that they are unaware has put of their new neighbor.

We do not know how new BL is to this community. Maybe they are new and have somehow gotten off on the wrong foot. Maybe they are long-time residents that have build up a list of 'offenses' to draw this neighbor's ire.

It could be that BL has a dog that barks all day while she is at work. Maybe the neighbor has said something, and maybe she hasn't. Maybe BL's schedule means getting home late and the lights and sound of her truck wake the neighbor every night. Maybe BL mows her grass when the neighbor has her clothes out to dry, and the wind in the area happens to blow the clippings and dirt on to them. These are all things that BL may be doing unaware that they are angering this neighbor that she would like to get to know better. There could be a misunderstanding where the neighbor thinks these things are done deliberately, thus the attitude. Or maybe BL is a hoarder and has junk all over her yard.

BL could also be new to town. She is writing to Billy Graham for advice about a non-religious question, so chances are that she is pretty religious. What if her first action was to go door to door introducing herself and inviting her new neighbors to the Bible study meetings she'll be holding? I can tell you first-hand that this can be a sure fire way to turn a new neighbor off. When my wife and I moved into our home, we met a few of our neighbors almost immediately after moving in. Many are nice and enjoy a bit of conversation when we cross paths. And I enjoy speaking with most of them as well.

But there is one neighbor that I would try to avoid if I could. Why, you ask? Well just about every time we spoke, every conversation would lead to an invitation their weekly Bible study meetings. Oh, we're having an evangelist speak this week. We're reading Leviticus this week. We're studying the resurrection tomorrow night. We're discussing who the Bible says who we should vote for in the coming election... It didn't matter how many times I declined, the invitations just kept coming. So rather than risk getting my house vandalized, or to have the proselytizing get turned up to 11, I felt that simply avoiding that neighbor was a safer bet that telling them that I am an atheist and just not interested in his meeting in the slightest. Perhaps BL is the same as that neighbor that I avoided.

Graham says to 'love your neighbor as yourself'. He takes this as doing everything you can to look out for them. And if she is that old, I can't see anything wrong with keeping a watchful eye. Maybe she walks her dog about the same time every day. If this is the case, glance out the window to make sure she looks okay. But the 'love your neighbor' policy also has another side... respect their wishes! If they don't want to talk, they don't want to talk. Respect that wish, especially if you want to get on their good side. Just leave that one invitation that you are there, and let them decide if they want to come to you with their troubles, or just talk about landscaping or the weather. Pestering will get you nowhere.

Billy also suggests trying to learn everything you can about this person, find next of kin, etc... Remember what I said about prying? Plus, this all may be wasted time. I have to wonder if BL has spoken to the other neighbors about this mystery neighbor. Maybe she is fine with them. Maybe they know her story, or even know her family and how to contact them in the case of and emergency. All these bases may be covered. Or you may find whether the problem is with you, the neighbor, or both.

And please don't follow Graham's advice to an 'example of Christ's love'... First, I cite again that knocking on her door selling Jesus (even if she is already a believer) is pretty much a sure fire way to get told to piss off. Second, Jesus'/God's love is far from something I'd want anyone to aspire to. I love you and want you to love me. But if you don't, I'm going to send you off to be burned and tortured and ripped to bits forever and ever. Please, oh please, oh please tell me you're not going to kidnap this neighbor if they don't agree to be your BFF. That you're not going to tie them up in your basement and torture them... Right BL? Please tell me I'm right...

-Brain Hulk

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