Brad and I both grew up in rural Western Maryland, surrounded by the Appalachian mountains and rolling farmland. Although we have lived in China and Minnesota, we still feel like country kids at heart. So when we moved to a small city in California, we were surprised to hear of crimes so near our home. In the two years since we have moved here, we’ve heard of several shootings and other violent crimes:
- 2 men were shot outside a nearby bar.
- 2 teenagers were shot in a nearby home during a gang-related incident.
- 1 man was shot outside a local market.
- 3 people were killed and 1 person was critically injured during a domestic dispute.
- 1 man was shot during a drug-related incident one block away.
- 1 elderly woman was found tortured and dismembered after her next-door neighbor robbed her.
As you can imagine, word of these crimes in more than enough to worry a mother of small children (or any mother for that matter). Some of these incidents happened so close that they were in places where I walked regularly pushing the kids in the stroller. The street next to us has begun a neighborhood watch program, and our neighbors have expressed concern over the recent increase in violence.
However, when I go for my morning walks around the school, I see the same sights that you will find in most towns. This morning as I walked outside, I heard an ear-splitting, “MOM!!!” I walked back to my house thinking it was one of my kids, and then realized it was one of the neighbors’ kids. I walked by toddlers fighting against their dad who was trying to drop them off for daycare. I walked by a school bus waiting on two elementary school students who were running late. I waved at a man who came outside to get something from his car, and two men who sat smoking on their front stoop. I greeted several teenagers as I walked, and gave four girls invitations to our club.
At times I have been fearful to leave our home because of the dangers surrounding it. But if I never leave my home, then I can never love my neighbor. Mother Theresa famously said, “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” Indeed, if we want to love our neighbors, then we must get to know them. Putting our fears aside, we must venture out and meet our neighbors.
“The most important commandment is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31