I don’t interact much with my neighbors, but I did meet one some years ago when he randomly knocked on my door to let me know he enjoyed hearing my singing through the (apparently paper thin) apartment walls.
“So few people do that anymore,” he said. “Never stop, okay?”
I saw him again a few days later raking leaves on the complex’s lawn. We talked briefly about life; he gave vent to some of his current circumstances but tried to balance his words with a positive attitude. Sometimes, over the next couple months, he’d come by and ask for things. Sometimes I’d give; other times I’d say no. I remember dropping off a spare caramel apple at his door over Halloween. I kinda didn’t need the excess sugar.
The winds of change blew, and he learned he needed to head elsewhere to tend to family matters. He stood at my door again before leaving and seemed to fumble through his feelings.
“I just wanted you to know, you’ve made a difference in my life. I’ve really appreciated all you’ve done, and I wanted to make you something in return.”
He handed over a square block of wood, and on its front was a rose burned into the grain. His signature sat in the bottom corner. I have no clue what I replied; I’m not sure I found words at all. With a few more bids goodbye, he went on his way.
This generation is keen on stewardship, and it’s a commendable facet of our modern culture. Even God commands we take care of His earth (Gen. 1:28) , our bodies (I Cor. 6:19-20; I Cor. 10:31), and our minds and souls (Phil. 4:8). Something I notice, though, is humanity tends to hyper-focus on very specific moral trends while willfully ignoring others if they’re not “in”.
Do you hear as much concern about being stewards of people?
Noooo, no no, we say. We’re not so keen on people. People are messy. People are not cute. People’s issues can’t be helped by throwing health food or friendly pesticides at them. (Well, maybe the health food helps.) “I’m not a people person,” you might hear someone say.
And boy, I raise my hand for that camp. I’ll take a book, video game, or countless useless hours of YouTube videos over difficult personal interactions any day.
But I’ve hung that wood-burn rose in prominence on a wall right as I walk in my door. I never thought I did much for that neighbor, and much of it I did shuffling my reclusive feet and waiting for the moment I could go be alone again. I see that rose, and it’s God’s clear message to me: “You don’t have to do that much to show My people the love they need.”
I feel like one of the servants in the parable of the talents, and I imagine God approaching me saying, “Amanda, I know you’re an introvert. Here are just five people I’m placing in your care,” and I’m like, “Five?! That many? Why do You always saddle me with so much? I’m gonna go bury ‘em.”
How many dozens of verses declare God’s passion for the care of those created in His image? (Here are just a few: Phil. 2:3-4, John 13:34-35, Prov. 21:13, Gal. 6:9-10, I Thess. 5:11.) He gave me that neighbor; he gave me family; he gave me friends; he gave me coworkers; he gave me a fiancé. He gives me random encounters where maybe just two minutes of my time will shine a light where it’s needed. Do I take this call as seriously as I should?
I will screw up. I’m a messy, not cute person with issues sometimes, too. But I do have a rose. With all their thorns, even they can bring people joy.