Well, this is a familiar Scripture and it’s quoted so much we sometimes forget what it really means or how to apply it in the details of our daily lives.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a whole new insight as to how I can obey this simple command in a very practical way.
For about 19 years, we have lived in New England with its sometimes abundantly snow-filled winters. The last several years haven’t been so bad but this winter is a doozy! Our town in Connecticut has had more snow this January than has ever been recorded (over 100 years). We just broke the record set in 1941.
We live a block away from downtown and there is usually a lot of foot traffic in front of our house even in the winter.
Shoveling snow when I felt like it…
The first few winters we were in our house, I would get out there and shovel the sidewalk when I got around to it. I knew I should do it, but I felt no rush. Usually, it would melt off in a few days.
During the third or forth winter, we got some pretty heavy snow and I didn’t feel like shoveling it all off. I was very happy in my cozy little home with the fire going and reading books to my children–or whatever I was doing that I thought was more important.
But then I got one of those wonderful little letters from Town Hall reminding me of a town ordinance that required all sidewalks to be cleared within six hours of daybreak after a snow storm. If I did not comply, the town workers would clear my sidewalks and I would get a big fine. Oh joy!
And, what I haven’t mentioned is that we have a corner lot. That means two LONG sidewalks that had to be shoveled. And to make it worse, when the town trucks plowed the snow from the street, it always ended up on my sidewalks. So I grumbled to myself, “Why should I have to shovel off the snow the town put on my sidewalks?!!!”
But I would go out and shovel those sidewalks because I didn’t want to get fined. I’d grumble for a while, but I would always end up admitting to myself that it was the right thing to do and be grateful I had done it.
What motivates us?
Over the next year or so, my motives went from simple compliance to civic duty. It seemed like a pain to have to go out and shovel all those sidewalks, not to mention the driveway, every time it snowed. But I did it because I wanted to be a good citizen. Not a bad motive. It was the right thing to do. And it did feel good getting it done.
But over the last few years, my motive for shoveling the walks has improved even more.
I actually love to shovel the sidewalks now. I see it as an opportunity to love my neighbor as Jesus expected us to do. And I must say, I feel genuine love for my neighbors when I am shoveling.
Here is a picture of a light snow last year. It was easy to get out and get the walks shoveled in about half an hour.
Not so hard to love my neighbors that day.
But this year, we have had multiple storms dumping a foot of snow at a time. We even got two feet one day. Not to mention the icy mix that makes things really nasty. But I have to tell you, I love to get out there and shovel that snow. My kids are older now and they have helped on many occasions, by the way.
Right now, there are piles of snow between the sidewalk and the street that are about four to five feet high. But I get out there as quickly as possible after a snowfall and clear it all up. And I do it with joy.
And do you know what, there have been several occasions when I was just finishing up when someone would be coming down the newly shoveled walk and thank me. Last week, a lady said, “You will never know how much I appreciate you keeping your sidewalks shoveled.” Wow, that made me feel good. That particular day, the streets were still full of slush and not the safest or the cleanest place to walk.
So even when we got 24 inches of snow, I saw it as another opportunity to love my neighbor as myself. The more snow, the more love I get to express.
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Simple words of Jesus. But oh so powerful when we do it.
If there is something you’re grumbling about, maybe it’s time to check those motives and include a little love for the “neighbors.” It will bless everyone involved, I promise.
I would love to hear your experiences of how you express love to your neighbors. Please share them in the comment box below.