Mercy Mondays

How can I be a good neighbor?

By Elizabeth White | Monday, September 12, 2016

These past few weeks, I have been in several meetings with different groups, concerning a variety of topics, and an odd thing keeps happening. A common theme keeps surfacing from different voices:  “how can I be a good neighbor?”

Yesterday, we marked the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. I have listened to stories, read articles and posts, and watched interviews. Each one brings me back to that day – the disbelief, the horror, and the wanting to hug everyone I loved just a little tighter. Tears well up in my eyes as survivors or loved ones of those we lost tell their stories.

In 2001, I worked in Boston and lived just north of the city. That day, after the second tower collapsed on the small television we were huddled around, I left work and went directly to an overflowing Catholic Church downtown to pray. I then headed home to be with my two year-old daughter. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, so I took her to a small playground around the corner. I expected it to be empty as it usually was, but instead, the park was full. Children were running and laughing. But the mothers and fathers just stood around silent. It’s as if we knew we didn’t have words for what was happening, but we knew we were better off being together at the playground than in our homes alone.

In the midst of such evil, even more good surfaced. We saw neighbors in New York reach out to one another and neighbors from all over the country head to New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania to offer whatever help they could. No one cared about skin color, economic status, or political position. We just knew instinctively how to be neighbors to each other.

We saw more of our neighbors at church. We had family dinners each evening. We slowed down and remembered what was important. We were kinder and gentler to one another. That is what I remember most about the months after 9/11. That horrific day showed me the immense power of love and mercy. As a nation, we stood with our neighbors.  

As we honor our shared experience of 9/11, my hope is that we can remember our collective human capacity to come together, that our neighbors need us more than ever, and that we each have the ability to be a good neighbor if we choose.  

Mercy Challenge

Consider what you consider what is most important to you? Ask yourself, “How can I be a good neighbor? What would that look like?” Then actively choose to be a good neighbor. In a small way, bring kindness into your world. Maybe you can patiently listen to someone; or chat with the person behind the counter; or offer to babysit to let a new mother get some rest; or bring flowers to someone “just because.” This is how we can bring God’s love and mercy to our neighbors this week.

Beth Jennings-White is the Director for the Office for Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship for the Archdiocese of Chicago.