They are all around us… They come from places other than the United States. They talk differently. They dress differently. They eat differently. They go to school with our children. They are our doctors and nurses. They are our teachers and professors. They run the grocery store on the corner. They manage the hotels we stay at on the road. They are our university students. They are our business colleagues. They are our friends. They are our neighbors.
In Luke 10 the lawyer asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus proceeds to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. Turning it around at the end of the story, rather than answering, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus poses the question, “Who proved to be a neighbor?” The Samaritan crossed cultural, ethnic, and religious barriers to be a neighbor. What made him do this? He wasn’t of the right religious order. He wasn’t of the right social strata. He wasn’t of the right non-profit or political activist group. He was, however, of the right disposition. The neighbor in him compelled him to act, to care, to accept, to welcome.
I can decide who my neighbor is. It doesn’t mean I will do anything about it, but I can if I choose to. I can then mark my good deed off my list and walk away. In the same way I can be a neighbor. I can decide that no matter who the person is and whether or not they are my actual neighbor, I can do something to help them along their journey. Again, I can then mark my good deed off the list and walk away. However, the neighbor in me compels me to not just act, but to care, to accept, to welcome.
We are entering the holiday season. How is the neighbor in me compelling me to welcome my International neighbor? Each year we welcome a variety of folks to our holiday table. We plan fun events with our refugee, immigrant and student friends. I have been in their shoes. I have been the one in a foreign country. The neighbor in others compelled them to welcome me during their special times and festivities. It made my life in their countries richer and blessed because of their generous welcome. This year, how will the neighbor in you compel you to act, to care, to accept, to welcome? If you are a bit stumped for ideas, here are a few:
· Prepare a Thanksgiving or Christmas basket for an International neighbor or friend.
· Check with your local refugee resettlement office and provide grocery gift cards to the most needy refugee families.
· Invite a family to a church or community festivity.
· Host a “Make a Christmas Ornament” party.
· Check with local colleges and universities and invite an International student to spend the holiday with your family.
· Take a family or student to a holiday movie.
· Bake your favorite holiday bread or cookies and share with an International neighbor or friend.
· Check with your local agencies and find a refugee family in need of help this Christmas and purchase age appropriate gifs for children.
· Take a group of international students around town to look at Christmas lights.
· Browse the CBF gift catalog and contribute to a project that reaches Internationals both stateside and abroad.
The neighbor in me compels me to welcome this holiday season.