The house my mom grew up in is on MacDougal Street in Fostoria, Ohio. That house has one distinguishing feature. It has a great front porch. Her family always gathered out on that front porch where they would talk to all of the neighbors who walked by.
When my grandmother passed away, my mom received a modest inheritance. She decided to use it to add a front porch onto her house just like the one on McDougal Street. Because of modern building codes, she couldn’t build it exactly the same. But it’s close and it’s a very nice front porch. I sit on it often and neighbors always stop by to talk.
We are so disassociated from our neighbors these days that I can’t help but wonder if it all started when we stopped building great front porches? Porches where we sat with our families, talking into the night and waving to our neighbors. Instead, we started building decks in our backyards where it is more private. On one hand, moving from the front porch to the back deck seems like a small thing. On the other hand, it is very symbolic of our tendency to isolate ourselves from each other.
In fact, it seems like all of the places where we typically used to spend time with our neighbors are having trouble surviving. Bowling alleys, pool halls, nightclubs, bridge clubs, PTAs, various fraternal clubs and organizations. Even neighborhood pubs and mom & pop restaurants have morphed into sports bars and chain restaurants in strip malls. It’s no wonder that attendance in churches of almost every denomination is on the decline.
One of the few growing denominations is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). You know, the church that’s out walking around in your neighborhood? I realize that the Episcopal Church is never going to be about door-to-door “conversation” and I’m not suggesting that we go there. However, it does make you wonder how much of their success comes from simply being out there and engaging with people in the neighborhood.
Of course, as Christians, our neighborhood is much more than just a geographical area. When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus most certainly used a Samaritan as an example because they were unclean outcasts who were despised enemies of the Jews.
So, if our neighbors are not just those who reside within our geographical neighborhoods, but are also the outcasts and our enemies, then we really have our work cut out for us. If we live in a society where it is difficult to connect with those who are like us, then how much more challenging is it for us to connect with the outcasts and our enemies? Please remember that in these times of division, fear and hatred, it is more important than ever to reach out to all of our neighbors, no matter who they are. I believe that our connection with God is directly tied to our connection with our neighbors.
David Dreisbach serves as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact him at email@example.com.