Just a few days before Thanksgiving, one state’s governor faced severe backlash when she suggested that people should keep an eye on their neighbors—and turn them in to authorities if they weren’t following COVID policies.
I agree that we should keep an eye on our neighbors right now, but for a totally different reason. After a rough year, this is the perfect opportunity for people who love Jesus to live out our calling to love God with our whole hearts and to realize that loving “your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33).
While much of what we see on the news only focuses on politics and pandemics, there are so many more hurts and struggles—physical, emotional, financial, spiritual—that are going unseen. So as you’re making your Christmas lists for gifts and groceries, keep an eye on your neighbors as you look for ways to love and serve them.
Keep an eye on the children.
Where I live in Wisconsin, child protective services officials are asking people to really, really pay attention to children. While reports of child abuse have dropped dramatically, abuse hasn’t dropped. It’s simply that as more children are in virtual school, teachers (who are usually reporters of signs of abuse) aren’t able to see clues. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for your adult neighbors too. Domestic violence isn’t decreasing either.
Keep an eye on those who struggle with mental health.
Early on in the pandemic, a young man I had met a number of times committed suicide. It hasn’t gotten easier for those who struggle. Japan just made news because more people committed suicide in October than have died with COVID. You might not be able to help everyone, but you can help someone. Reach out to them; let them know they are valuable and have purpose.
Keep an eye on the lonely.
A friend of mine shared recently that her grandma just wants to go to heaven because her independent living facility hasn’t allowed visitors or offered much programming for the past eight months. She likes her independence; she can’t bear the isolation. The elderly aren’t the only ones who are lonely. Keep an eye on the people who lost their jobs, on teens who don’t have extracurriculars, on new parents, and on those who live alone.
Keep an eye on those who struggle with substance abuse.
To cope with the stress of 2020, many people have turned to substances. The number of people struggling with dependency on alcohol and drugs is increasing, as is the number of overdoses. Many people are joking about wine but deep inside are hurting.
The list could be (and is) depressing. At the same time, I believe there is hope. See, God created you and placed you at this exact moment in the world because he has plans for you to bless the people around you. If you can’t see anyone who needs help right now, ask him to lead you to some person or some agency that needs your time, your energy, your donations, your love. He’ll definitely answer that with a yes!
Oh . . . and one more thing. As you keep an eye on your neighbors, I actually do want you to turn them in—to God. The very first and very best thing you can do for your neighbors is to pray to the One who has all authority to heal disease, to drive out demons, to forgive sins, to judge, to give eternal life.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor whose amazing neighbors dog-sit and chicken-sit at a moment’s notice—and they also gainfully employ her children.