Mervyn posts a reflection each week. Please join in; he welcomes comments.
A totally unrealistic TV program shows city people around three rural houses in the county they would like to live in. The questions raised are about the size of the kitchen, whether the garden is large enough for alpacas, whether the décor “works”; nothing about neighbours. The program shows a complete misunderstanding about what makes people feel at home.
I live on a great road, terrific; we have lunch with our neighbours every year, usually under a shelter in the rain in June. We all know each other’s names and telephone numbers. If you ask for help, you get it. Quite a lot of tasteless decor, some pretty small kitchens and a total absence of alpacas.
National security is a worry. All these groups of Muslims and white extremists lurk around corners, all ready to cause disruption and death. How can we protect ourselves? Wouldn’t it be good if they were our neighbours instead of our enemies? Jesus says that this is simple: make them your neighbours! How do we do that? Show kindness to them.
In 1949 an American conscientious objector, Bob Luitweller, set up a group with some friends, at a folk high school in Denmark. They called it “Peacebuilders” but it became “Servas”: Esperanto for “to serve.” Its object is to prevent war by helping people to receive travelers from other countries. Visitors must stay two nights without payment. The first evening meal is to share information about the area, the second is to discuss what the visitor has seen. The act of sharing food forms bonds. I remember clearly several families in other countries whose hospitality I enjoyed years ago. I could not go to war with these people. It is a great, and cheap, way to spend holidays.
Security depends on neighbourliness; it is the only guarantee of protection. As neighbours we help each other out and look out for each other. As hosts and guests we are bound by the ties of hospitality. What we need is more neighbours and, fortunately, they are freely obtainable. All you have to do is to show kindness and offer hospitality. Then, when you move house, your questions will not be about alpacas and kitchen size, they will be about neighbours, potential neighbours, community events, shared facilities. How many neighbours have you got? Why so few?