Theology in the Trenches: Meet thy neighbor

Kathleen Kjolhaug
Religion Columnist

The colorful invitation to gather in the cul-de-sac peaked my curiosity. Like a neon sign flashing hope, it glimmered upon the refrigerator within the home I was staying. It wasn’t my first visit to the city of Moorhead, and it certainly wouldn’t be my last as four of our six children have relocated in or nearby this area about two and a half hours from the family homestead. 

Each time I traveled back from my visits, the fact that my grandchildren wouldn’t have the small town experience saddened me. After all, we know one another on a first name basis here, and the community effort to look after the young ones is a given in small town U.S.A. 

That little sign upon the fridge held out hope from deep within as this first Tuesday in August had been set aside for neighbors to gather. You needed to only sign up to take part and sure enough, the neighbors at the end of the little circle drive had done just that. Our part was simply to show up with a treat to share.

The little ones were pumped as we made our way next door to a driveway filled with other adults and children. Conversation ensued and before long, each one had met the other, most for the very first time. Two elementary teachers educating young minds and serving as role models, two college professors continuing to stretch minds and encourage, a UPS driver bringing delight to those who wait in expectation, an I.T. specialist at yet another university nearby assists others in navigating the complex world of technology, one dedicating his life in the field of criminal justice helping to keep us all a bit safer, a nurse touching lives in the new hospital which opened just  last week, a manager at a hardware store in town helping to serve the family’s needs, a stay at home mom helping her little ones to grow, a college student, and military personnel who’d gone on several humanitarian outreach trips all gathered.

As the music played, chalk drawings were created upon the pavement. Beanbags were tossed round and about while tricycles were ridden in style. As the fire pit was sparked to life, marshmallows were roasted and on into the night the conversations continuously struck a chord within that simply said, “Neighbor ... meet your neighbor.” 

The checklists of ties that bind grew as the conversations crisscrossed and what a small world it is after all played itself out many a time.

My heart skipped a beat at one point as I noted the large red fire truck making its way in our direction. Two police cars followed. Once parked, out they came with smiles as broad as their arms reached. Eagerly, the children ran up and into the truck getting a birds-eye-view of the neighborhood in which they live while the policemen introduced themselves. The community organizer welcomed all as she snapped a picture of all who’d gathered and within minutes, this big city turned small town before my eyes.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” seems to be the rule of thumb employed in this city (Matt. 22:39).  Perhaps small town U.S.A. truly can be recreated in the mindset of all ... no matter how big the area in which we live. Amen.

(Kathleen Kjelhaug is a religion columnist.)