If being neighborly means crossing the street, then we must ask ourselves what streets are we willing to cross. And for whom? And for what purpose?
As a child I witnessed how the forced busing mandate further segregated people in spite of itself. Instead of helping to end racial segregation in public schools, by bridging the gap between the different ethnic races through education, the mandate forced many people to push their racist beliefs further inside where their hatred percolated and festered.
The Supreme Courts ruling that allowed all children to have a equal shot at a quality education is a good thing. However, some did not agree. Issue after issue that are weighed out in the high court have been used repeatedly in my lifetime to divide this country further.
As a result, our social circles become more closed off. We don't just secretly fear people who are different than us, but we begin to hate them. It is often a hate that grows from the inside out, and more often than not results in violently acting upon the fear and hate.
When we separate ourselves, we are not crossing the street. We are not getting to know the people around us. We are not being neighborly.
I believe we have enough separation in this world. Between gay and straight, republican and democrat, black and Hispanic, Muslim and Jew, free and imprisoned, the rich and poor, sick and healthy, and even between Catholics and Protestants. We are divided by age, gender, intelligence, social status, education, residency, and so on. The lists of groups is endless, but the bridge is still the same. Unfinished, under construction, or even unknown. Because of this separation, we tend to overlook the simple truth that we are all children of God, having been made in God's image. As such we all share the same blessings as well as the same judgment. At its roots is love, compassion, and peace.
We need to cross the road, step over to the other side from time to time in order to understand how to be more neighborly, more compassionate, more just, more gentle, and less violent, hateful, and ignorant.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells us who our neighbor is. He also teaches us what we must do to be neighborly. We must love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), we must not judge our neighbor less we bring on judgment ourselves (Matthew 7:1), we must care for them, feed them, give them drink, visit them when they are imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46). As the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, "Am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God?... If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)
Take the time to cross the road today. If you need to build a bridge to do, don't wait. Just build it. Close the gap by opening your heart, your mind, and you hands to someone new today. Who knows, the favor might be returned to you.
The better we are at embracing our neighbors, the better we will be at truly understanding ourselves.