There are many ways to support your neighbors

Published 8:50 am Friday, November 9, 2012

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Andrea Myers, Grace Lutheran Church

Love God. And love your neighbor. That’s a quick and easy way to sum up the teachings of Jesus and what it means to live out his mission in our world today.

Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to recognize how we can show that love. We help change the flat tire. We give someone a ride to the job interview. We share a few quarters at the laundromat.

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But sometime we are at a loss. Where can we start, in showing love for our neighbors on the East Coast as they recover from Hurricane Sandy? After all, the images and stories are totally overwhelming. Communities and even coastlines have been forever changed by the power of wind and waves. Families are left to mourn loved ones, or to grieve the loss of homes. For mayors and local governments, the scale of the disaster has tested even the best emergency response plans. Tensions are running high as communities wait for help and for resources. The road to recovery will be a lengthy one, never moving quickly enough for those who want to return to the “normal” they knew before the storm.

Where can you and I start? We start with empathy and compassion, as we seek to learn the stories and understand them. We start with prayer for individuals and families, for public safety workers and for government leaders. We start by sharing generously from what we have, through reputable charity organizations like the American Red Cross and others we know to be trustworthy and good stewards.

That’s where we start. But that doesn’t have to be where it stops!

I recently learned about one man’s creative approach for showing support for the people of New York. If anyone can understand what they’re going through, it’s the Gulf Coast residents who have been rebuilding from Katrina for over seven years. A freelance journalist named Andy Kopska was stranded in New Orleans while Sandy struck his home town of New York. So he met up with some New Orleans residents, and photographed them holding up whatever printed message they want to pass along. The messages featured on the “NOLA to New York” website range from practical (“Don’t open your fridge. Trust me, just get rid of the whole thing,”) to supportive (“In our prayers… with many condolences,”) to inspirational (“Destruction is a very rough road but it also breeds creation!”). These are messages of incredible hope and reassurance, from individuals who have “been there, done that” and can promise that it does get better.

Whenever we point to hope and share the hope we have found in our own lives, we love our neighbor in a powerful way.

What word of encouragement do you have to offer someone today, from your own life’s journey? Where can you point to the hope you have found in God? What would you write on a piece of paper, to share with a friend, a brother or a stranger who is hurting and discouraged?

We need not wait for an overwhelming tragedy to encourage one another with faith and hope.