That’s some trick. What does it really mean in this diverse, brawling world that seems to emphasize differences instead of common ground? Do we love our neighbors because they are just like us? Or is the challenge of this core ethical tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition and civil society rather more difficult than that? So we asked the question: What does it mean to love your neighbor?
The Rev. Gregory O. Schaefer ’98
Works in campus ministry at Stanford
I wonder if the first (and most difficult?) part of loving the neighbor is seeing the neighbor. In the midst of our own struggles, sometimes it’s hard to even see another in need. But then what? In the Good Samaritan story, Jesus extols the love of the Samaritan who, though himself despised, mistreated, mistrusted, sees and then has loving compassion for one in need. Maybe loving the neighbor is first recognizing Christ in one in need, and then responding as God does with us—treating another even better than we ourselves have been treated.
Dayna E. Chatman, M.A. ’05
Ph.D. candidate at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
It means to listen, have empathy and compassion for others, and to respect experiences that are different from our own. This requires that we be self-reflective; we must evaluate our opinions, biases and experiences, and assess how these things frame our understanding of our neighbors. This process will enable us to develop the capacity to approach our differences in a civil manner and foster relationships that can potentially be productive in combating social injustices such as racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia.
Lauren Speeth, M.B.A. ’89
Founder of Elfenworks, a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating poverty
Jesus tells us neighbors can transcend boundaries and include so-called enemies. In our interconnected world, actions here have consequences across the seas. Everyone’s our neighbor, even flora and fauna. When we realize this, we kindle a sense of kinship with humanity, and indeed all creation. Love of neighbor requires clear seeing: the state of things, what is needful, how our action or inaction might affect our neighbor. Then, it involves taking ownership, just like the Good Samaritan. Not just passing by, but rolling up our sleeves and getting involved. The good news is that it’s a real path to joy.
Erica Conway-Wahle ’91
Dentist who works with children with developmental disabilities
It means treating everyone as you would like to be treated. We all desire to be loved and accepted unconditionally, despite our shortcomings and disabilities. People may not do things that we might choose to do, but we shouldn’t judge them, for we haven’t walked in their shoes. God asks us to love one another. He is the only one who should judge. We need to give completely of ourselves to others, and they in turn will do the same.
Caitlin Hungate ’06
Former Peace Corps volunteer, now working at a public health research firm
I see it as breaking down our individualistic societal constructs and building a sense of community grounded in our fundamental interconnectedness as humans. Building relationships and treating others with respect and kindness is part of it. Loving your neighbor is also grounded in action. For me, this may look like watching over a neighbor’s home while he or she is out of town, or mentoring a middle school student in the Denver area. Our actions can be big, but the small actions also matter.
Public relations instructor
Building community and loving your neighbor go hand in hand. If you want to build a sense of trust, which is an important part of building community, then everyone must feel that they trust their neighbor. The United States has been the place where people from around the world feel they can enter and trust their neighbor. That isn’t the case in many parts of the world. We take it as a matter of normalcy that we trust our neighbor, whether it’s in the dorms at SMC, or in the towns nearby. It’s a matter of trust.
Daniel Murphy ’13
Development coordinator at The Seven Hills School
The many wonderful people I encountered at Saint Mary’s gave me invaluable perspective to not only what a neighbor means but how critical close social relationships are to one’s well-being. Learning to work with all of the diverse “neighbors” in your life introduces new ideas and ways of life, crafting your personal worldview along the way. You can only learn to fully love your neighbors when you experience the willingness of others to lend a helping hand in times of need, certainly an inspiring reality prevalent in communities around the globe.
Father Mike Russo
Professor of Communication
Neighbors take notice. Tonight on the TV news, I saw Dr. Kent Brantly’s arrival at Emory University Hospital, having treated those suffering from the Ebola virus in Western Africa. Now, he’s our neighbor. Another story about a chicken farmer in Gaza whose neighbors have come to live in his small apartment, the only place left standing in his war-torn town. So many children sheltered there and smiling for the camera—maybe the world will take notice. It’s our chance to take notice of our neighbor—people we know and people we don’t know.
Marc Dominguez ’96, M.A. ’04
Counselor at Bishop O’Dowd High School
It starts with acknowledging that there is value in every life, whether you’re the CEO of a big company or the guy asking for my aluminum cans for recycling. Life is hard sometimes for everyone. Wherever any one of us is in our lives, it needs to be valued. I try to meet people where they are and sit with them—sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, sometimes spiritually, sometimes musically. That’s where I see God—in the struggle, in the interaction, in the happiness. That’s what balances me and helps me to be a better neighbor.
The Bible tells us to treat our neighbors with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Yet, our own politicians throw verbal barbs and shrill rhetoric at one another; whole countries are at war. What can be done? The path to peace has to begin individually, with each of us acting as a beacon of God’s love. If whole neighborhoods live in harmony, then cities will follow, then counties and states and eventually countries. We must pray fervently for love to wash over the earth as we strive to form bonds in our own communities.