Take a day for neighbors

Loving in small ways can have a big impact

Apr 28, 2014 by

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GOOD Inc., a project offering space online to gather and share creative ideas for “living well and doing good,” created a holiday last year called Neighborday. On the last Saturday in April, people are encouraged to step outside their homes and get to know their neighbors. The first initiative attracted 2,000 participants worldwide.

Participants follow each other’s progress with social media and posts on good.is/neighborday. After Neighborday, they can contribute videos, photos and descriptions of the events they held or actions they took.

This helps provide virtual support for getting to know a community — a task that can be daunting.

Anabaptists know about the value of community. Neighborday is a great way to build one.

In a promotional video, GOOD Inc. co-founder Ben Goldhirsh says if the event catches on, being a good neighbor might become essential to human happiness.

It’s an idea only as radical as Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself, he said. Sometimes that’s harder than it seems. An event like Neighborday promotes a simple way to start: spend time with them. That small act may have more impact than we imagine.

Richard Beck, author and psychology professor at Abilene Christian University, blogged recently about what he calls sacramental friendship. He suggests simple friendship might be the most important way to reach people, especially those on the margins.

One reason for this is the “strength of weak ties” theory. Weak ties (relationships that aren’t close friendships) are responsible for a wider variety of connections in people’s social networks. New friends become tied to one’s network, however weakly. The more weak ties in our networks, the greater the exposure to diversity and support we will have. Sharing ties helps others build communities of support for times of need.

Making neighbors into friends has farther-reaching benefits than what is at first obvious. And neighbors offer a different sort of community than what a church attracts. Seeking such community is consistent with the upside-down kingdom Jesus proclaims.

Neighborday events are one way to form such sacramental friendships. GOOD’s suggestions range from setting up photo booths to holding cardboard art parties. Anabaptists might be satisfied hosting a simple potluck.

Churches are good at expressing and considering love of neighbors, especially abstractly. Neighborday is a good way to demonstrate that love.

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