“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -- Matthew 12:30-31
My favorite neighborhood pizza restaurant closed a few days ago. Once a week, for the past five years that I’ve called this corner of God’s world home, I’ve ordered a pizza there. Always the same: large pepperoni, with a bottle of Fresca on the side. Those slices were delicious, absolutely. I’ll miss the culinary enjoyment of getting my supper there, the ritual of it. But what I’ll miss even more is the neighborliness of the store, the fact that most of the guys there knew my name. That when I picked up my order they always offered a cheerful “Hello!” That when I called in on Sunday nights I could always count on a friendly voice and good service.
I suppose I could have traveled a bit further away to get a pizza. It might have been as good, maybe even better, or cheaper. But the folks who ran the shop were my neighbors and so I wanted to support them as a good neighbor too, right there in my neighborhood. My ‘hood, my corner, my street, my village, my community, and my home.
In a time when we supposedly all live in a “global village”, as one philosopher called our technologically dominated modern life, it can be easy to forget the comfort of claiming a geographic, physical, specific, real place in the world as our neighborhood. Where we talk over the fence about the kids or the storm the night before or the new person who’s moving in down the block. Where we stop by at Christmas with fresh cookies or drop off a casserole when someone is sick. Where we have folks right nearby who can save us in a pinch with last minute childcare or a cup of sugar to save a recipe. Neighbors.
I know this sounds quaint, even archaic in our Facebook hyper-connected world. Who needs friends nearby when we’ve got so many “friends” on line? Why catch up face to face when you can just update your status? Forget real conversation. Just send a quick text. So much easier, quicker, cleaner, right? Maybe. But me? I need a real neighborhood with real neighbors in a real world that some times can be a real stormy place.
Because for all the virtual ways we humans claim so called “cyber-neighborhoods”, there is finally no substitute for human contact in an actual neighborhood, on a street, an avenue, a block, a lane or a cul-de-sac. Just ask all the folks slammed by Superstorm Sandy last week.
Neighbors rushed over to help folks pull all of that stuff out of the basement in the moments before it flooded. Neighbors with power welcomed in other neighbors and gave them a hot cup of coffee, a warm meal and a shoulder to lean on. Neighbors checked on one another, offered electric plugs for cell phones and computers. Neighbors literally offered shelter from the storm. No electronic screen can ever replace the gift of folks right next door who know our names and are there to lend helping hands or even just to bake a pepperoni pizza pie.
So farewell to the village pizza parlor. You’ll be missed for the food but even more so, for just being such good neighbors.