Love you neighbor.
It’s such a simple statement. Seems so easy. Seems like the right thing to do. Seems like everyone would want to do so.
Last year when our community was destroyed by tornados, I saw so many people rush to help others. I saw young and old, black and white, those who had plenty and those who had so very little, all come together and help each other rebuild. Everybody was loving their neighbor. A local mama created t-shirts that said: “Love your neighbor #daytonstrong” and donated the proceeds to the community. I purchased one and wore it proudly. I was heartbroken for our city and yet so very proud of her.
A few months later, another tragedy took place. And once again, there were tears and heartache. Again, I saw the same people rally behind each other and offer support. Again, we put on our tees and declared ourselves #daytonstrong.
We loved our neighbors. We donated money, we fundraised, we worked tirelessly, we had conversations, we wiped tears and over and over we said, “Love Wins.”
And then one day, we sat watching the news and a pandemic was declared and everything started shutting down. Schools were closed. Businesses were closed. Everyone rushed to the stores for supplies. Fear gripped us all.
And in an instant, I saw the love leave.
There was a moment there, the first few weeks of quarantine, when artists freely shared living room concerts, libraries read stories, and DoorDash was free. And I felt for a moment, everything was going to be ok. Because we love our neighbors and we were all in this together.
But then, it seems, the fear took over. Issue after issue swept our nation. And everyone had an opinion. And the first time I saw a friend on Facebook post, “If you don’t agree with me, you can unfriend me,” and my heart broke. It broke again and again as more and more people posted similar posts – about all the topics. These were my friends, my coworkers, my family! These were people I’d sat in the same conference room with, people I would stop and chat in the hallways with at work. Some of them I did agree with, some of them I didn’t. But they didn’t know if I did or not. Sometimes I’d wonder:
“Did they really mean me? If they knew I didn’t agree, would they be surprised? Would they even care?”
And, I wondered, where is the love? Where is the concern for the fellow man? Why do we, all of a sudden, declare our thoughts, opinions, values are the correct ones and everyone else who feels differently is wrong and bad? Why are we all so afraid? Why is fear controlling us? Why can’t we love our neighbors? Why can’t we all be in this together? Why can’t we support each other and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down?
The thing is, we can. I’ve seen it. Last June and last August proved it. I’ve felt it. I’ve heard it.
Because we ARE #DaytonStong.
Because we DO love our neighbors. We just have to remember it. And allow our love to be stronger than our fear. Stronger than the hate.
Take a break from the news, friends. Put down Facebook for a moment. Text someone you haven’t seen since March and ask how they are. Plan a social distancing coffee date. Send letters to a nursing home. Take a food basket to someone who may be struggling. Help a momma out that’s been quarantined with toddlers for six months now.
Please, please. Just love your neighbors.