A few weeks ago, we found out that our neighbors were going to sell their house. They don't live there, both of them work in the Washington, DC area, but on weekends they would come and mow the yard and work in their garden. They are good neighbors. One time last year they were gone for an extended period of time. When the husband returned, he was trying to mow the overgrown yard with a small push mower. I went over to help and found out his mother-in-law had been ill and he and his wife had to go to China to be with her. We got to know each other a little better. Now that they are selling their house, I helped out yesterday by removing a couple of trees from their yard. Why is all this important?
First and foremost, it is a witness of Christ to others--showing kindness and a willingness to help and be good neighbors. Moreover, how many of us know our neighbors these days? With all the nasty headlines and the ideological bigotry permeating our society, it makes it difficult to reach out to someone you don't know. It's a barrier to making new friends because you just don't know how you will be received. So it is safer to not try at all to be neighborly or friendly. To me, this is more of a reason to just stick to yourself rather than venturing out beyond your tight circle of friends to make more friends. How many friends do you really need? But then again, are you not called to be witnesses? There's that.
A recent story in the NY Post reported on a study of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll and Evite indicating that the average American hasn't made a friend in five years. Some 45% said they find it difficult to make new friends. The poll listed several options to choose from as to why people are not making new friends. Of these options, 42% said they are shy or introverted; 33% don't want to go to bars; 33% felt that everyone had their friendship groups already formed; 29% cited family as taking up most of their time; and 28% said that they do not have any hobbies that allow them to meet new people. There wasn't a category about feeling uncertain of approaching prospective friends because of the current hostile social environment.
Bottom line is that friendships are hard to find. They are even harder to build once you find them. We in America have become so walled up because of so many things-work, family time, self-indulgence, the social environment, and more-that it is easier to just stay home and keep to ourselves rather than engage with others. Christ said in Mark 16:15, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Every time you engage with others, you are showing the measure of Christ in you. A kind word, a smile, a helping hand, a laugh are all ways to witness the light of Christ within. Yes, we live in a hostile environment because people seem to want to find offense rather than agreement. This is no reason to pull back.