Written by Stephanie Bowman, Associate Chaplain, Felician Village Mission Department
How would you answer the question above? Perhaps you might think about things like helping with shoveling, or taking your neighbor a meal when they are sick. Those are wonderful, caring actions of love and are no doubt very appreciated by the recipients. Perhaps some of you participated in service work for neighbors both near and far at some point in your life; maybe you made mission quilts, volunteered for meals on wheels, participated in a service organization, or gave money to organizations that served the poor.
Serving our neighbors through acts of caring is a wonderful way to show love, but they place a strong emphasis on doing. One of the problems with the mindset that we show love for others primarily by doing, is that we will all reach a point in our lives when we cannot do things for others in the same way anymore. In my daily conversations at Felician Village, I hear people name the frustration of not being able to serve others the way they used to. They aren’t the caregiver anymore, they don’t provide for their family in the same way anymore. They may not have the financial resources to help others anymore. This leads to an existential question: what is my purpose when I am not able to do for others anymore?
We spend so much of our lives focused on doing, we forget we can show love for others by simply being with them; listening when they are lonely, grieving, or struggling with a problem. In spite of the fact that Jesus’ ministry involved a lot of action—healing, feeding, and teaching—many of his encounters began with listening. What good news for all of us! In spite of physical limitations, we can all find ways to be a neighbor to those around us, listening and sharing God’s love through the gift of presence. Mr. Rogers famously said, “Listening is where love begins.” May we all learn to be better neighbors to each other.