Loving our neighbors

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Around the turn of the 20th century, my father began a career as a traveling salesman. He sold everything from View-Masters and Singer sewing machines to furniture.

Dad was born in the mountains of northern Georgia. He was orphaned while a young teen, and to make a living, he began selling View-Masters door to door. This was a time before radios, cars or televisions.

A View-Master was a wonderful machine made of metal and wood. You would insert a card, and it would open up the world to you. The Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids all came into view.

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This was an era when many people hadn’t traveled more than 50 miles from home their entire lives. A View-Master was an exciting luxury to share with family and friends.

One day, I began to think about Dad’s work as a traveling salesman, and I asked him, “Where did you spend the night? I know there weren’t motels on every corner.”

“No,” he replied. “There weren’t even paved roads. I would spend the night at my last call.”

“Were you ever not invited?” I asked. “No,” he quickly replied. “Not once.”

What has happened to our society? We won’t even open the door to speak to a stranger. This Christmas, a man was trampled to death by shoppers trying to get to the bargains first. For many, fear and suspicion have taken the place of hospitality and generosity.

The truth is that things have changed. I am not taking in every stranger who appears at my door. But there are many things that all of us can do to show kindness to others. We could open the door for others, stop our cars to allow people to cross the street, smile, speak or just be nice.

In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus teaches about hospitality. A man in the parable He told had been beaten and robbed and was left by the side of the road. Despite being of an estranged culture, race and religion, the good Samaritan cared for him. He bound the injured man’s wounds and paid others to continue his treatment until the stranger was well.

As Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise.”