Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: neighbor

Book Review: When a Wolf is Hungry

When a Wolf is Hungry, Christine Naumann-Villemin, Kris Di Giacomo (illustrations), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017.

Edmond Bigsnout is a hungry wolf. He leaves the forest and heads to the big city to find himself a “grain-fed, silky rabbit.” He enters an apartment complex and finds the name of Max Omatose, miniature rabbit. It seems perfect.

Maybe too perfect. 

Each time Edmond attempts to “prepare” his meal, a neighbor in the apartment building has a need for Edmond’s tool – his chainsaw, his rope, even his big pot. Each time Edmond shares his item and rides his bicycle back to the forest to get something else.

Finally, mistaken as the new neighbor in the building, he is invited to the roof. There all the neighbors who borrowed things from him were there, having a cook-out for him, the new neighbor.

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The Doorbell

When I was growing up, it was rare that doors were locked. I can remember as a kid roaming around and randomly going into my grandparents’ home next door. No knocking, and certainly no ringing of a doorbell. We would just walk in. But now that I think about, we haven’t asked my grandparents how they felt about any of us randomly walking in their house.

Then, at some point, the world changed. And doors were locked. It was strange. In order to go into someone’s house, we had to use the doorbell.

The Doorbell - dog rings bellIt was a little creepy at first. You didn’t know what was going to happen. The doorbell was a strange object. “We’re just suppose to push it?” we wondered. “That’s all?” We would push the button and wait to hear if anything happened. In some cases, the “bell” would be so loud it would freak us out a little bit. Others we wouldn’t be able to hear it ourselves, which meant we had to push the button again, right? Because if we couldn’t hear it, how could the people inside hear it?

It also seemed so formal. Like we had to wear our Sunday best to visit someone. We were not formal people. We were country, where everyone knew everyone. Honestly, though, everyone was related to everyone – which is a whole other blog post.

Doors were no longer open. Being invited in was no longer taken for granted. We had to ask to be invited in.

When the doorbell rings, we have been trained to go to the door. We may peek through the window first to see who is out there. Maybe we are expecting guests or a delivery, and we wait with anticipation for the doorbell to ring. The power of who comes in is on us, we who are inside the house. If it is a salesperson, we do not have to let them in. If it is some annoying grandchildren, we do not have to let them in.

When I lived in an apartment in the West End of Richmond, a group of Mormons from Central America were making the rounds in the apartment building. I knew when my doorbell rang that it was this group of people. I knew what they were selling, and decided that I needed to bury my  head into my textbooks instead. I figured after they rang the bell and no one came to the door, they would move on to the next door.

However, the bell kept ringing. After awhile I finally got up from the table where I was studying, and answered the door. The elder member began chatting me up in a quick pace of Spanish that I did not understand. I finally realized that they had the wrong apartment. They were looking for my neighbor, who was a relative they were looking for.

About the same time that Dad got sick with prostate cancer, I brought home  a black lab. Dad named her Lady. She had been left on the side of the road near the church I worked at at the time. She was malnourished, to the say the least. And as a result, she spent the first few months inside the house.

As we got better, she would spend most of her days outside. At some point Lady learned that if she jumped up and pushed the doorbell, one of us would come and answer the door. And I don’t mean a neat little trick where she uses her nose to push the bell. No, she would jump up and lean on the door. Once “standing,” she would use her paw to ring the bell. It looked a little bit like this:

www.catster.com

www.catster.com

And because we had been trained to response to the doorbell, we would always check to see who it was. Imagine our surprise the first time we realized it was not a person, but the dog!

Lady was not surprised. And once we started answering when she rang, she would continue this habit. Especially when she sensed a storm coming. Lady was deathly afraid of storms. On these evenings, she would ring the doorbell at the front door, and if no one came soon enough, she would run and ring the bell on the back door. This would continue for awhile until my Mom would wait patiently for her at one of the doors to let her in.

One evening while Dad was in the hospital, I was home with my two younger brothers. Lady had gone outside. Not long afterwards, the doorbell started ringing. I – the older brother – told my brothers, “Don’t answer the door. It’s just Lady, and she needs to learn to stop doing that.”

The doorbell did not stop ringing.

Finally I got up, annoyed with the lab, to let her in. Only, there was no black lab waiting at the back door. Instead, it was one of our neighbors bringing us a casserole. I was only slightly embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I thought you were the dog.”

Jesus Said: Open Your Eyes

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, The Message)

Jesus Said - jasoncstanley.comIn the film, The Ron Clark Story (2006), Matthew Perry plays native North Carolinian teacher Ron Clark who moves to New York City to teach elementary school.  Clark learns quickly that the inner city school system is very different from the school system in small town North Carolina.  But Clark also learns that the inner city kids need the same love that the small town kids do.

United Methodist minister James Howell reminds us that “many great teachers and heroes, from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century to Mother Teresa in the twentieth have taught us that we ‘see God’ in what is not at all invisible: in our neighbor.”

In various ways Mr. Clark becomes a Christ-figure for us all.  No matter the kid, no matter the situation, Mr. Clark shows the same love to everyone.  It is a pure love.  A love that we are all called to show to everyone!  For in loving each other, we love God.

Jim Palmer, in his book Divine Nobodies, he writes about meeting Jesus in the Waffle House waitress, the tire salesman, and the swim teacher, among others. Palmer’s thesis is that when we open our eyes to those around us – children in our classrooms; those serving us at restaurants; those fixing our cars; those sitting in pews next to us – we see a glimpse of Christ. And we called, if not commanded, to love as Christ loved. Because we have been loved, we can love.

This is a pure love that comes through holy transformation.  Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, NRSV).  We should heed Paul’s words, and not be conformed to seeing others around us as the world, society, community, others want us to see them. When we open our eyes to see others as Christ sees them, we are transformed.

In what ways do you need Christ to transform your mind and heart? 

 Pray:  Lord, thank you for being with us each and every day.  Thank you for giving us eyes to see others as you would.  Continue to be with us as we get closer to each other, and to you.  Amen.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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