That’s a familiar slogan, isn’t it? If you live in the United States chances are good that I just put that jingle in your head. But have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of this song?
What is State Farm saying? It’s an insurance company reminding you that your neighbors stink. But if you pay them a premium they’ll be like a good neighbor to you.
“All we did was show up and smile.” That’s usually the honest reflection for teenagers who are serving on a mission trip. The lead-up to the trip elevated their expectations that doing mission work was somehow extraordinary. But when you sit in a circle with a group debriefing a day of service someone in the circle will always say that they didn’t do anything particularly special. There’s a little ounce of disappointment that handing a homeless person a sandwich or painting the classroom of a school didn’t feel more special.
Yet, there is power in that reflection. Often times loving a neighbor isn’t a big thing. Something doesn’t have to be large or especially memorable to be meaningful.
In fact, becoming Good News in your Neighborhood is often so free that you begin doing it without any intentionality. I recently sat down with a denominational leader who shared with me just that. He left a parish ministry to accept a position at the denominations offices, and in doing so he left his parsonage garden behind and began living in a condo. Several months later he noticed that a small common area of his complex was getting overgrown and he approached the property manager about turning it into a little vegetable garden. He admits, his desire to do this was very selfish. He missed gardening and saw an opportunity to do something he loved. But as time went on neighbors began to ask him questions about what he was growing. Of course, he shared some of his crop. And the next thing you know everyone in his complex knows his name, about his garden, is helping with “their” garden, and looks forward to seeing him.
I’ll give you one guess where a couple of families are now going to church…