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The garage door opens, the car pulls in, the door closes. Neighbors remain faceless and anonymous. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Cue worldwide pandemic.

Lockdowns had us homebound––as if in a twilight zone––and we suddenly emerged in strangely large numbers for neighborhood walks. We stepped outside our apartments and homes, looking to the left and to the right, some of us seeing our neighbors for the very first time.

We felt something shift in our openness toward neighborly interactions we’d avoided because they were too daunting and awkward. Potential relationships that had once seemed insignificant and a waste of time now felt important. We started at the very beginning, with a wave or a smile.

Start with the Smallest of Steps

The parable of the mustard seed has something to teach shy neighbors and reluctant mailbox-wavers:

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:30–32)

What kind of seed? The smallest of seeds. Seeds already strike us as miniature and inconsequential, but Jesus reminds us that great treasures come from these miniature cases.

The miniature interactions we have with our neighbors make a difference.

Similarly, the miniature interactions we have with our neighbors make a difference. What if, during this strange time in history, we began to say hello to our neighbors, wave, and smile? What if we took the time to learn their names? And what if God were to use even the smallest of gestures to change the course of a neighbor’s spiritual life?

It’s never just a wave.

Be Patient

Jesus’s words, “when it is sown it grows up,” emphasize that growth takes time. No one looks at a tree, plant, or shrub––or a child, for that matter––and sees the growth happen in a moment; it’s far too slow. It’s only when we look back at a picture, or the hand-drawn growth-chart lines on a wall, that we see the change.

It’s the same in our neighborhoods. For our family, less happened in our first year as neighbors than what we might have hoped, but more happened in five years than we ever dreamed.

Read full article at The Gospel Coalition.


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