Who is Your Neighbor?

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Supei Liu of Nomi Network

When I grew up in Canada, we knew our neighbors. The ones next door. The ones down the street. And definitely the ones across the street, especially the mother who screamed, “Ian!” every evening around 6:00PM, a.k.a. dinner time, because Ian loved to play outdoors, no matter the weather or the season.

As I grew up and we moved the States, I noticed more and more, that society turned inward. Kids played outside less. Folks paid landscapers to mow their lawns, so you rarely caught a glimpse of your neighbors unless they were pulling in or out of their driveway.

Fast forward a decade and Hubs and I end up in New York. The very mention of New York suggests high rises, pricey goods, and crowded subways. Oh, and fear. Don’t trust anyone, especially your neighbors. Then, by a fun turn of events, we moved into the town of Oyster Bay, first to Glen Cove and then, Locust Valley, where we currently live.

I never imagined being on a street where you not only know your neighbors, they become like family to you. And they have…

We have several neighbors whom we have an open-garage policy. Borrow what you need, when you need it, and remember to put it back. We have families whom we happily leave our kids with and our kids love to be with them. We even have an ex-cop neighbor who offered to *cough-cough* take care of a person who caused some heartburn in our lives for a season. Same guy who gave us the traffic light for our tree house. He’s like the Mayor of the street, and if you need something, he usually knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who owes him a favor. Yeah. We have it really good.

I just walked into the house this evening after a few pleasant exchanges with our newest neighbors who moved in across the street fall of last year. I love that we can just hang out in the middle of the street in the splash of the street light and just shoot the breeze and share our lives. Little by little.

So last week, when Hubs decided to read the age-old tale of the Good Samaritan to the girls, I got to thinking, or rather thanking, God for such wonderful neighbors. And my thoughts couldn’t help but turn to those who are so nearby and still hurting, from both Hurricane Sandy and the shootings in Connecticut.

I feel sad when I hear there is a Sandy Hook family who did not lose their child but is suing the school for emotional damage to their kid’s mind. Hmmm. I get that their child will probably never be the same, but seriously?

I love how a group of Christian artists and speakers got together and gave a free concert called Hope and Healing for the Sandy Hook families and the Conneticut neighborhood. Because the world hurts with them. And I appreciated how Casting Crowns’ lead singer put it, “We just want to come and love on them.” Because that’s a huge part of how healing begins. Love. Unconditional.

I hope that as the weeks go on and the neighborhood participation dwindles for Sandy Hook families, that they might find a steady flow of love and prayers trickling in. Because the kind of pain and devastation that an entire community faces like that will take years and years to heal from.

I also thought about the event Hubs and I attended at the Rockefeller Plaza this past week. Nomi Network hosted a cocktail reception to honor three individuals who champion freedom for all, fighting hard against the global issue of human trafficking.

I especially appreciated Cheryl Willis, the evening’s host, who shared her own personal journey of discovery, learning that her heritage linked back several generations to the slave owner whose last name she still bears. And Simon Collins of Parsons, the company who designed Michelle Obama’s inauguration gown, how he said, “Fashion seems so frivolous. But when it comes down to it, what’s one thing we all have in common? We wear clothes.” And he went on to applaud Nomi’s ingenuity to use the marketplace and desired commodities to help women overseas, both at risk and freed from sexual slavery.

Because the truth is, once a woman or girl is rescued from, say, the red light district in Bombay, the cops don’t know what to do with her, besides throw her in jail. What do you do with them? Nomi Network‘s founders Diana Mao and Alissa Moore answer that question with their approach to their fight. They affirm that the women are worth something by teaching them how to make items worth something. And when the I’m guessing, five hundredish attendees watched the video documentary of a few of Nomi Network in India, their stories say it all. The women cherish the opportunities that Nomi has given them to find learn new skills, create and produce beautiful things, and ultimately, to rewrite their stories. Stories that continue in a new direction. The direction of Hope.

The night was full of shoulder rubbing with men and women, like Actor/Writer Erik McKay and Jeannette Josue, Ms. New York United States 2012, who were there because they believe the world is our neighborhood. We can’t all go overseas, build companies, train women to sew and the like, but some of us can send. Support. Give financially so projects and endeavers can grow, expand and reach even more women. Share ideas and knowledge. Link arms and dreams. Together.

Because bottom line is that we are not meant to go through this life alone. We all need each other. Yes. I went there. We are the world, feed the world, we are family… all of that and then some. So this new year, along with all the self-motivated, self-improving, self-discipline driven resolutions, look around and find a neighbor. Here or abroad. In your family or out. And love someone with your actions. Be a neighbor. And spread some neighborly love. Today.

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Who is your neighbor? Is there someone in this winter season that lives near enough that has a need that you could meet? And when you see that person in pain, who will you mimic? The priest or Levite who crossed the street and walked on the other side of the road to avoid getting too close to have more than a gawkers’ traffic jam experience? Or the Samaritan, who got his hands dirty and gave with his left hand not noticing what his right hand was doing?

Do you have an experience when you were the one in need and neighbors and strangers stepped forward and helped you out!?! I know we have! And that’s when I have to remember, it’s all about paying it forward. One life at a time.

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