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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Loving my neighbor

It occurred to me today that someone reading this might wonder with what authority I can name my blog "Love thy neighbor," with the address being "trulylovethyneighbor". After all, I could give many examples in which I have failed miserably at loving my neighbor.

Those would be the times I didn't notice someone in need...the times I didn't listen...or I did listen and did not act compassionately...the times I simply did not act at all...the times I flat out did something I knew was wrong... If I were to list all those times, this would be a very long entry.

When I was talking to my students today about the death of Bin Laden, a student said that radical Islamists think we are infidels and want us dead and there is nothing we can do to change that mentality. My response was that I have never personally encountered such people, so I can't say from my own experience that if it is true. However, I went on to say, speaking from my experience as a teacher who from time to time has students in class who are pretty hateful and disrespectful towards me, I can say that when I treat those same students with the respect they don't give me, our relationship often changes. We may never have an easy relationship, but in most cases, they become a little easier. It would be simpler to write them off, but that would be a failure to do my job.

In fact, just today I had a wonderful conversation with a former student who I'm pretty sure added some gray hairs to my head. He was a student who gave me lots to pray about when he was in my class. I prayed for his well-being (his life was not the easiest and he didn't seem to be making it any easier for himself) and for my own capacity for patience with him. And despite the very difficult relationship we'd had, here we were having this lovely conversation in which he was telling me about the changes he's made in his life. Amazing.

So, while I have heard that radical Muslims want me dead because I am Christian, if I ever encounter one, I hope I will treat him or her like a human being, showing respect and giving the person, and the idea of transformation, a chance. How could I do anything else?

After school I was thinking about what I'd said and I wished I'd pointed out that while I try to practice what I preach, I fail and fail and fail. But I keep trying. And maybe that's what's important.

It may be that I have no authority to write about loving my neighbor, but I find that doing so helps me to try to live according to that ideal. The more I write about it, the more I am reminded of my goal. Thanks for allowing me to do so.

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