WHY CAN’T THEY BE MY NEIGHBORS?

I like mowing my neighbors’ lawns. Just the other day I had the opportunity to mow the lawn for another neighbor. Well, that now makes four lawns besides my own. Two of the neighbors I haven’t met yet; however, they don’t seem to mind and with my battles of work, it was the highlight of my week. A kind act to four households, that are diverse from mine, without expectation of reciprocity. Wait, that may not be true. When we moved in twenty months ago, our seventh home in twenty-one years, one neighbor came out and shared that we would be prayed over and cared for because we were their neighbor. A Tennessee welcome for sure.

Then I used GPS to come into the city and meet with people, who have lived without housing for more than twenty-one years. “The Homeless,” I am told. That is a curious thought to me. I am definitely a modern nomad, identified as neighbor, who still refers to the wrong city in speeches, and takes a moment in the morning to remember my place in the world. Then, there are those who have been living in shelters, tents, under bridges, and in shadowed corners who have lived here longer than I have lived in any city. They are “those experiencing homelessness,” (now doesn’t that sound better?) and I am not. So I challenge associates to recognize such persons as socially displaced. People got really passionate! “Just call them Homeless! That is what they are!” The emotional anger that poverty provokes is interesting and can be discussed in another article.

So, being new to the city, and preferring to use creative abrasions to rub people just the wrong way for progress, I have questions for you.

Might we recognize those who live near us as neighbors? Might we recognize that social, economic, and environmental factors increase the displacement of our neighbors from homes and neighborhoods? (So does free food, free shelter, and free length of stay, by the way.) If we then see each other as neighbors, some displaced and others distressed, but all Tennesseans, then might we pray for each other? Care for each other? Might we love our neighbor as ourselves?

There is a benefit to mowing so many lawns nearby. The whole neighborhood is refreshed together. It is my gift of thanks to my neighbors. I now extend my thanks to you for welcoming us to your neighborhood as well.

Contributor:  Major Ethan Frizzell serves as the Area Commander of The Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army has been serving in Middle TN since 1899.  A graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, his focus is the syzygy of the community culture, the systems of service, and the lived experience of our neighbors. He uses creative abrasion to rub people just the wrong way so that an offense may cause interaction and then together we can create behaviorally designed solutions to nudge progress. Simply, negotiating the future for progress that he defines as Quality of Life in Jesus!

Misty Ratcliff