I am reading Paul Born's book Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times. Born begins the book with a story he often tells:
I've been asked, “What is the most important thing people can do to make a difference in the world?”
“Well that's simple,” I almost always reply. “Bring chicken soup to your neighbor.”
“Really?” is the typical response.
I say yes, and then add, “But remember, I said the answer is simple. But the act of bringing soup… well, that takes work.”
It requires that you know your neighbor.
It requires that you know they are not vegetarian and like soup.
It requires that you know them well enough and communicate regularly enough to know they are sick.
Once you know they are sick, you must feel compelled to want to help and to make this a priority among the many calls on your time and energy.
Your neighbor must know you well enough to feel comfortable receiving your help and you must have enough of a relationship to know what they prefer when they are sick, whether it is chicken soup, pho, chana masala, or even ice cream.
So, you see, the work takes place long before you perform the act of bringing soup. (pp. 1-2)
I can relate to Born's explanation. I would add a sentence before "knowing your neighbor".
It often requires some degree of courage to introduce yourself to your neighbor and to learn their name.
So take courage and know that although neighboring is a simple and meaningful practice, it is not always an easy process.
Click here for a video of Born reading the chicken soup excerpt from his book.