If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in. ~ Frederick Buechner
Yesterday evening, standing around in Larry’s front yard amongst so many family, friends, and even neighbors, mourning his passing, engaging in small talk, they came and came and came, many with food in their hands – the offering of solace and comfort that is so common here in the form of a casserole dish – one conversation paused to consider what, or better, who, is my neighbor.
Jesus’ answer seems pretty clear to me: my neighbor is anyone who needs me – not merely needs, but needs me.
There is that of proximity in neighbor – and around these parts, where so many of us live so far apart physically, one can start to believe that he doesn’t actually have neighbors. My answer to that, at least for now, is that if I’m close enough to see the smoke from your place in the sky – that is, close enough to come when you need help – I am your neighbor.
In Larry’s case, close enough to see the need could be pretty far away, for the man who sent his daughter across the road to help a family with a sick child (these mountains can be pretty rough on young tummies) with a bag (in case it happened again), some paper towels (there’s always a mess) and an offer to bring her over to his house to clean up, or the man who went on countless fire calls, driving the truck with the same haste as if the one on the other end, the one needing the help, were of his own family.
Larry Smith was a man who had enough imagination to see the need and in seeing the need, to see the neighbor. He wasn’t unique in these parts – there are plenty of folk who see and heed the need. So no, Larry wasn’t unique. But he was special. And he will be missed.