It’s difficult to imagine that people once lived separately from each other on different continents or across vast oceans, never seeing another soul who didn’t look like them. Fast forward to today — where technology has collapsed distance and linked us in unprecedented ways — and we realize that we have become neighbors with everyone. COVID-19 revealed in short order just how interconnected we all are as we feel the consequences of actions that neighbors take in other countries to neighbors who live around the block.
For some, this globalized reality has come as a rude intrusion into our lives, and seeing your neighbors today inspires new reactions. Are they a potential threat or a welcome connection? Possibly both.
I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together—Black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” He wrote this in a book of his sermons and essays entitled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” and we face the same question today.
Long ago, a certain lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus answered with a story, challenging the very notion of what it means to be a good neighbor. In a similar spirit, we share stories to stretch our collective imagination of what being a neighbor looks like in our cities, our nation, our world.