My mother was not the most pleasant person in the world, to say the least. She was argumentative and difficult to get along with on the best of days. When my father died, things were difficult for her to manage. About 3 weeks after my father died, our next door neighbor’s wife died. Sal, who was known as “the fish man” because he owned the local fish market was now alone in his house with his big dog who used to chase our cat. But what happened between Sal and my mother was kind of sweet to watch. He always read the paper early in the morning, and when he was done, he tossed it over the hedge between our houses so my mother could read it. He also knew that we ate fish on Fridays (don’t ask me why; we didn’t observe any other Catholic things), so on Friday evenings, he would bring my mother some fresh fish and shrimp from the fish market. He also drove me to visit my grandmother on Saturdays. My mother would often share what she made for dinner with Sal, and I would sometimes run errands for him, like picking up groceries and things. Salvatore Cardona was a really good neighbor to us after my father died, which I always thought was kind of funny since he and my mother didn’t get along. My mother didn’t get along with anyone as I remember it; and Sal was just a good guy. My mother tried to be a good neighbor to him and in her way, I think she was. If nothing else, an old widow and widower had some company and someone to take care of. In it’s way it was kind of sweet.

I have moved so much as an adult that I haven’t really had a relationship with too many of my neighbors. So many of us move around now that I know I am not alone in that. When I was a kid, everyone knew everyone, and there was also an elaborate system of getting information out. As a kid, you could have a fight after school, and I guarantee your mom would know about it before you even got home. There was no way to hide from the neighbors and gossip and other information flew through the grapevine at the speed of light.

The thing was, in that system, as crazy making as it was, you knew you could depend on your neighbors in an emergency; you knew that if you needed anything, it would just show up. There were several times after I left home that neighbors took my mother to the hospital when she was sick, and who just “kept an eye on her” for me.

For many of us, that concept of “neighborliness” has disappeared. There aren’t as many stay at home parents, lots of people are working more than one job, people move around for better jobs; we just don’t have that kind of relationship with the people around us. The worst part to me, is that it seems no one cares. “Personal liberties” whatever that means, has taken the place of loving our neighbor. And we might blame technology and social media for some of that, but the technology we use has made it so everyone is our neighbor. No longer are we confined to a geographical area to find our neighbors; all of humanity is our neighbor. The catch there, is that has always been true; if God created all of us… then all of us are at least neighbors, and at best adopted brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom.

Loving God and loving our neighbor are intimately connected. I would say that if we aren’t loving our neighbors near and far, that we aren’t truly loving God. Loving our neighbor is one of the ways we show our love for God. If we are worshipping God in the temple on Sunday, then we must also worship God on the streets, in our homes, in our communities, and around the world all the rest of our time. It sometimes feels as though we are being pushed to engage less, and I suppose with a pandemic going on there’s a certain amount of wisdom there, but honestly, we need to be engaging more. The isolation that people are feeling for all kinds of reasons just gets worse and worse. We also have a responsibility as people of the kingdom to make sure as best we can, that others are able to experience God’s kingdom here on earth. It’s not an exclusive club, but rather the kingdom is the world as God created it to be. If we claim to love God, then having God’s Holy Spirit help us to do our part in the kingdom is something we all need to live into. God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth as in heaven is meant for all people, everywhere; it is not just for those who go to church or who go through the motions of following the law; it is for all people because all people belong to God.

My neighbor Sal was a good man. I suspect he tried to take care of us because he felt it was an obligation of his after my father died. We all tried to take care of each other, sharing our resources, and being there for each other when there was a need, as well as celebrating accomplishments and joys.

How can we better serve the neighbors God has given us? How can each of us better love God by loving our neighbors? Who are the neighbors that are hardest for us to love? May we all love those neighbors especially, so that we might love God more deeply.