by John Duff
Let me tell you about my favorite day of the year. It is that one day, most of the time in March, when everyone can get out to the parks for the first time. I love that day, after a long winter of not being able to be outside, when it warms up just enough to play some Frisbee or soccer at the park. I love seeing people out walking their dogs and playing with their families. I love being outside and active. Thus this time of year, the heart of winter, is not my favorite.
If you are like me, you really dislike cold weather. I’m one of those folks whose emotions are affected by weather. When it is freezing and I can’t get out, I feel glum and miserable (these are a little exaggerated). Though this is genuinely how I feel about the cold, I also find great joy when cold weather and winter storms come along. Wanna know why?
Well, I’ll tell you: I love the opportunities that are there for Christians to show the love of Christ in winter. You will notice, when natural disaster hits areas, the Christians are the ones who always respond, no matter what the conditions. In Kentucky, we don’t get hurricanes or monsoons, we get winter.
Stuck inside during the snow, I encourage you to contemplate Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Over the past years for me, winter has given me a great excuse to follow our Lord in this respect. When out shoveling my driveway, I constantly think to myself: “Well, I am clearing my driveway for myself, so why don’t I do it for my neighbor?” One time from inside my warm apartment, my roommate and I saw a man spinning his tires struggling to get out of his parking spot. Though we were all cozy inside, we were compelled by the desire to obey Christ and love our neighbor. We suited up (with winter clothing and shovels) and did our best to help the man get out of the spot and off to work. If I were going to work, I would shovel my way out; thus that is what I am called to do for my neighbor.
Over the years I have had great joy in doing these things, not because there is a lack of opportunities to care for others in the other seasons, but because there is a lack of opportunities where it is so clear of a choice. I don’t always know what my neighbor might need or what they are going through any summer day, but I know for certain when the big snow falls that they can benefit from my help. I encourage you to take joy in the opportunities that we are afforded during the winter months to, “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Maybe it’s not shoveling snow, maybe it’s asking if you can get them anything at the supermarket while you are out. Maybe it’s just stopping by for a second to let them know that you are there if they are ever in need of an extra hand. Maybe it’s being a friend to the elderly woman who lives next to you who doesn’t get a lot of interaction with people, especially when bad weather hits.
I don’t know what it is for you, but I get excited for such easy and clear opportunities to show the love of Jesus Christ to others. I hope that you take time to contemplate how you can love your neighbor through these winter months. Maybe they will even ask you why you are so quick and happy to help and you can tell them that you are a follower of Jesus, and that he taught us to love people in tangible ways.
Anyway, I also get a little goofy sitting inside during the winter and often write modern day parables, so here is one I came up with this year:
A well respected man walked up to Jesus and asked him, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “There once was a friendly Lexington neighborhood full of Kentucky basketball fans and one Louisville fan. During the winter months there was a big storm with 10 inches of snow! Many in the neighborhood thought they should help each other so they could all be safe while it was slippery and wet, but not many actually did anything. One strong person said she would help others shovel some, but she was in a rush to get to work, so she only cleared a way for herself and rushed off. Another said he would help, but was worried that if he started helping, he would have to do it all himself. Others didn’t want to help and decided to stay comfortable inside watching the Cats play. But, there was one, who knew the right thing to do and did it. You know what? It was the Louisville fan who ended up clearing the driveway for those who couldn’t. And he made sure all the elderly and widows were fine before he went back into his own house to warm up and relax. Now, which person in the story do you think was actually a neighbor to the others?”
After a pause in which he thought, and responded, “I guess the Louisville basketball fan, though it seems a bit farfetched.”
“You are right!” answered Jesus, “You see the Louisville fan wasn’t concerned about someone being a neighbor to him, he was concerned about how he could be a good neighbor to others. Go and do likewise.”