If You Want to Change the World, Get to Know Your Neighbor

Big problems send us searching for big solutions. But there are no big solutions, only small ones applied over and over again, by a great number of concerned people.

Perhaps what these troubles require from us is not a big solution. There are no big solutions, only small ones applied over and over again, by a great number of concerned people.

No one can argue that we are a disconnected people, living in places but not as part of them.

We make our home in one place, commute to another, spend Christmas across the country, and dream of the day when we can finally move to that other place we’d rather be.

Our individual landscapes and cityscapes wouldn’t know the difference if we packed up and moved right out, for all the good we do them.

Our very neighbors likely wouldn’t notice our absence.

We aren’t quite rooted to any particular place anymore, and I think that is possibly the greatest tragedy of our generation.

Of course, the internet is partly to blame (as it is for most things, apparently).

This virtual community gives us a false sense of belonging, making us feel as though we know dozens of people intimately simply because we read their words and ogle their living rooms and buy the same jeans that they recommended last week.

But this isn’t a rant against the internet.

It is nothing short of amazing that we can now connect with people who we otherwise would never meet, all because of some obscure airwaves.  

But I would venture to guess that most of us are hungry for more meaningful interaction, a relationship based on more than “yes girl! love this <3” and “double tap if you love pumpkin spice lattes.” (Of course we do.)

Big problems send us searching for big solutions. But there are no big solutions, only small ones applied over and over again, by a great number of concerned people.

No instead, this is a rant against mobility.

For all of our moving – from home to work to play to worship to rest – we don’t seem to be getting much done. Certainly not much in the way of relationships, communication, or economic stimulus.

We’re are making ourselves sick for it, too.

One survey testified that a devastating 86% of millennials reported feeling lonely; nearly all of us.

We are in our cubicles, our cars, our living rooms suffering silently from a disease more deadly than obesity.

We have husbands, children, sisters, and coworkers, but how many of us can say that we have friends?

We are a people longing to know and be known in return.


Mother Theresa is quoted as saying “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

I agree with her sentiment, but to our nomadic culture I’m not sure that her words resonate quite as powerfully as they were meant.

For us, home changes every few years. And we are loving our families, we would argue.

We’ve given up dream jobs to become stay-at-home-moms, started business that allow us flexible schedules and a home office, downsized the American Dream and bought a smaller house, all so that we can love our families well.

So why doesn’t it feel right?

Why are we still aching to feel a deeper sense of connectedness and contribution?

Perhaps what these troubles require of us is to look to our neighbor and say 'What can i do for you?"

In the 1980’s my great-grandpa was given a plaque from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture honoring our family for 100 years of continuous family farm ownership; the Century Pioneer Farm Family recognition, it’s called.

I wasn’t yet born when this distinction was given, but it’s a source of pride for me still.

My people lived and worked and loved the same piece of land for over 100 years.

I can’t even commit to yoga every week.

But what if that is the key? What if committing ourselves to a place and to the people who share it is the answer to the loneliness epidemic, the race wars, the drug wars, the ultra-violent crime, the poverty, the class divide, the aching discontent that settles into our bones and whispers to us “you’re missing it. You’re wasting this one precious life.”

If you want to change the world, get to know your neighbor.

Everything feels like an emergency these days, doesn’t it? Climate change, health care, racial divides, the orphan crisis, mental illness, the bills that need to be paid.

They’re all shouting at us, begging to be solved just this instant. And they are emergencies, I suppose; these issues need our attention now if we want to affect change before our time is up.

But perhaps what these troubles require from us is not a big solution. There are no big solutions.

There only small ones applied over and over again, by a great number of concerned people.

And perhaps the smallest, most subversive and radical and transformative solution of all, is to sit down and talk with the person next door - today, tomorrow, and then again next week - until their pain becomes our pain and our joy becomes theirs and we simply can't go on without each other.  


Are you ready to serve your community and make a difference in your little corner of the world?

I believe that the world is changed from the bottom up.

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These big issues are pressing in on you, compelling you to do something about it all.