There was a show that was on a few years ago starring Tim Allen called Home Improvement. If you haven’t seen it, Tim Allen played as Tim Taylor, who had a DIY show and gave tips and tricks to people doing home improvement projects. And, of course, it was a sitcom so the show included his family life and all their hijinks. There was this one particular part of his home life that I remember, and that was his neighbor, Wilson. They would often have chats peppered with the one-liners you expect from a 90s sitcom, but the thing that stuck out was that you only ever saw the neighbor from his eyes up—the rest of him was hidden behind a privacy fence. Whatever the extent of their conversations, Tim never interacted with Wilson except at eye level behind a fence.
Sometimes, neighborliness is exactly like that. We may be cordial and friendly, looking out for each other and sharing news, but a lot of the time—not always, but a lot of the time—our interactions with our neighbors end there. It’s like Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall when the neighbor tells him that “good fences make good neighbors”—essentially that it’s the separation that makes us get along with those who live next to us. So it’s with this idea of neighborliness in our cultural minds that we hear this story of the Good Samaritan and its focus on loving your “neighbor” as yourself.
June 26, 2022
I heard a story on the radio recently about a man named Kenny Butler. He grew up without a lot of options, hemmed in by poverty and community violence, and ended up joining the ranks of the Crips gang. Well, as time went on he ended up in and out of jail, until he landed in federal prison on a plea deal. That should have been the end of the story—one more man caught up in the crackdown of law and order—except that Kenny had a realization in prison, that he didn’t want to be this way. He started studying, and by some miracle it just happened that he was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree. One thing led to another, and he reached the point where he was organizing a community program to reconcile former gang members for the good of their communities.
Deep down, we all want to be good people. We want to do the right thing, even when we sometimes don’t know exactly what the right thing is. In the case of Kenny Butler, he was given the opportunity—you might say the grace—to grow into a person who could do the right thing. We all need the grace to try to do the right thing, and become the kind of people that God is calling us to be.