In the preschool classic, “Are You My Mother?” a baby bird hatches when his mother is away, and the poor little fella begins a journey to find her. He asks everyone – and everything – he meets, “Are you my mother?”

Imprinting is instinctual; at the very core of who he is, Baby Bird is driven to find a bond, an attachment, love…and it’s natural that he’d do so with his mother, the one he’s physically closest to (or should be). In her absence and driven by his little birdbrain, he tries to attach to a dog, a cow and even a plane.

Remember?

That story is what came to mind when I learned Grace Table would be exploring the question “Who is my neighbor” this month, except I found myself asking “Are you my neighbor?”

The question has dogged me for weeks. Not in a biting-at my-heels kind of way, but like a playful puppy, because, who is my neighbor, indeed? The people who inhabit the homes on my street? All the colorful souls at Walmart?

I’ve sifted and shaken the theme, at first writing about my neighbors in a literal sense–they are who first come to mind. And I’ll finish those stories because they’re so worthy of telling, but none of them felt quite right, not at this time, not in this space.

I knew I wanted to consider the question in light of the Gospel and with the eyes of Christ. How would He answer the question?

Many of us seated around Grace Table will know Jesus was asked that question. He answered it by telling a story familiar to us, the one about the good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10. (I bet I’m not the only one who mentions it this month.)

The person Jesus says is our neighbor, the person to love as yourself,  is simply the one whose path crosses our own…even strangers and philosophical enemies. In the case of the Good Samaritan, one person was in need and the other had the means of provision. Well, several pass by who could help, but only one does….

Multiracial friends

We are the world.

It was 1985 when an anthem written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie brought the far world near and introduced people in great need to those with the means of provision. Are you old enough to remember? It was unparalleled and revolutionary. I was stilled every time it came on the radio. YouTube hadn’t yet been born, so it wasn’t like we could watch the video whenever we wanted to; personal computers weren’t even common in homes. 

In USA for Africa (thirty years ago this month) forty-six superstars – many at the height of their career – joined together to record what would become the first-ever multiplatinum single. Putting aside ego for the greater good, they each played a small part on a big stage, their humble effort not to advance personal platform but to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Bright lights were cast on a dark place. Heartstrings were tugged, eyes were opened, and many were moved to help. 

People who were starving to death were invited right into our living rooms, strangers brought near. We could choose to ignore them and continue on our way, or slow down long enough to lend a helping hand. Our neighbors became people we’d never meet face to face, but through the taken-for-granted miracle of television, our figurative paths were literally crossing.

It didn’t matter that they lived thousands of miles away, their circumstances were desperate, their dire need impossible to ignore. “Neighbor” was redefined.

In 2010, twenty-five years after the release of “We Are The World,” eighty artists came together for We Are The World 25 to record a new version of the original song to raise money for Haiti following a devastating earthquake there. Once again, we were meeting people who were battered, bruised and in great need, and we could either ignore them or extend compassion by giving, going or maybe even just grieving with them. This time the message was broadcast a thousand times over thanks to the Internet. 

Multiracial Group of Friends with Hands in Stack, Teamwork

Our neighborhoods are expanded because the world has become smaller; our neighbors are no longer determined solely by our street address. We can get to know, care for, serve and love the people right outside our door – and we should – but when our lives intersect people on those virtual roads, we can love them, too. I suppose it was my mother who first shaped my heart to consider “neighbors” in a broader sense; one of my most precious memories of her is demonstrating that those who have give to those who don’t.

The We Are The World initiative was an early change agent for social justice, but by no means the first; star power simply amplified its reach. Cause advocacy organizations like Compassion International and Mercy House introduce us to new neighbors–people in need for whom, by the magnificent grace of God, we have the potential and power to help.  

We’re born with a natural instinct to form relational bonds and to love others. I guess we have something in common with that little baby bird after all.

Q. Are you old enough to remember when “We Are The World” first debuted? Tell me about your response. Have you always thought of your neighbors only as those who live next door? Is our Grace Table series shifting that paradigm for you?  

 

We Are The World, original recording
We Are The World 25 for Haiti

 

 

Robin Dance / Posts / Blog
Southern as sugar-shocked tea and in a scandalous affair with her college sweetheart, Robin is mom to two in college with the third almost there. She believes the kitchen table is a sacred alter, first classroom, and safe refuge, where the currency is spoken in love and good food. She hates "cooking close" and shoe shopping (gasp!), loves snail mail and surcies, and finds holy communion where sand meets surf. She's also rumored to make the best apple pie in the world. In addition to writing at robindance.me, you'll find her at The Art of Simple, {in}courage and Deeper Story.
  • Beth
    http://withlove-simplybeth.blogspot.com/

    Beautiful reflections on a song that also made an impact on me. And Grace Table . . . you all are having such an impact on me. I should expand but the impact is great and when that happens my thoughts can become harder to share. Mixed with emotions the best I can do is say, Thank You to all. You are expanding this heart of mine for others.
    God bless.
    xoxo

    March 18th, 2015 12:45
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Beth, your comment made my morning! One, that you know this song of which I speak :), but mainly that our words and work here are effecting your heart. That is such an encouragement, or what I call a “pay check”. Keep me posted on what this looks like in your life. Really, truly…I like to know these things! xo

      March 18th, 2015 13:13
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  • layla bb solms

    Robin,
    EEEP! I’m old enough to remember that song. I didn’t know about the book, Are You My Mother, until we had our first baby. My husband bought it, and we read it and read it – as we all do – for babies love the repetition. What spoke to me most in your story, though, is the idea of neighbors and mothers, and how sometimes God places folks in our lives (our us in theirs) to be their mother – maybe not not adopt or take over all responsibility for, but to reach out, draw in, give selflessly; teach a skill, cook a meal, offer prayers and guidance. I have many ladies in my life to whom I owe a great debt for the selfless love and kindnesses they showed me throughout my formative years. The journey isn’t over, and while some ladies continue to pour into me, I in turn am intentional about investing in the lives of a few ladies and a 5th grade girl at our local elem. school.

    March 18th, 2015 14:42
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Oh, Layla…what a beautiful perspective. I’m at that place, too, and I’m so eager and interested in pouring into those a few years behind me. It’s amazing to see the incredible women the Lord is leading right to my door, and my privilege to love them.

      I think you and I could be fast friends :).

      March 18th, 2015 23:05
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