And Who Is My Neighbor?

Vacations are great…

Often times, they give us the opportunity to see new things, try new things, and simply get out of what can become the monotony of life. When you travel, your mindset changes a bit doesn’t it? On vacation you become a tourist. You are simply there for pleasure. On vacation you want to separate yourself from your everyday reality. You want to get away. And it feels good to get away; to escape and simply be free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You simply step into a different place and engage your surroundings as you please.  As a tourist you can freely float from one experience to the other.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on this idea of being on vacation versus the way I sometimes engage my own place or neighborhood. If I’m honest there are times when I engage my own neighbors and neighborhood much like I tourist. I come in and out of my neighborhood as I please, separating myself from the realities of life that are all around me. Rather than being present to my surroundings, I move from experience to experience simply using my home as a hotel bed to sleep in. Leonard Hjalmarson in his book “No Place Like Home” looks at this phenomenon.

He writes:

“There is a certain approach to life, a particular posture, that dominates in our culture: it’s the posture of the tourist. The challenge we face as followers of the Incarnate One is to move from the posture of tourist, to the posture of pilgrims. Tourists are escaping life; pilgrims are embracing it. Tourists are trying to forget; pilgrims are trying to remember. Tourists are looking for bargains, and aren’t really SEEING at all. They are like technicians, cataloging reality as if it can be accrued in a bank balance. And they hate to be surprised. Pilgrims love to be surprised, and are looking to see, to connect with something larger, something other than themselves. Charles Foster comments that, ‘What sets the pilgrim apart [from the tourist] is that he hopes, and at some level believes, that someone will hear his footsteps coming from afar … and that from inside will come music that he has heard somewhere before.’”

This is a powerful reminder that as followers of Jesus we are actually invited to move beyond the perspective of a tourist and actual take the posture of a pilgrim right in our own neighborhoods. As a tourist simply view my neighborhood from the pane of a window and never actually enter into the lived story of my place. When I take the posture of pilgrim I’m actually invited to enter into the stories that shape my community. I’m invited to move from consumer to actual participant in the lives of those around me.

That means, I purposefully live my life in the midst of those around me. That means I actually learn who my neighbors are and allow my life to intersect with theirs. I not only learn their stories, but I share my own and invite others to join me. To be a pilgrim means that I am constantly learning and engaging with my surroundings. Each life, each space, is sacred – because it reflects the beauty of our creator. So, who are your neighbors? What are their names? What do they do for a living? How old are their children? What do they like to do as a family? What are their fears or their dreams?

When I’m on vacation I’m focused on “the experience” and rarely pay attention to the locals, unless they hinder my ability to enjoy my vacation.

As a pilgrim, I have stake in my place, in my journey, and those who are a part of it. If we believe that our God is a God who took on flesh, we must also acknowledge that God cares about place, about the particulars and intricacies of life – And Christ beckons us to do the same.