Regardless of whether or not I will be a legend on the courts of Harlem, which is not likely, meeting Joseph was the highlight of my week. At first, I admit I was hesitant when he asked to play with us. The introvert in me wanted to just pretend that we were about to go home, but against the odds, I made a different decision, and I’m so glad I did, because I had a blast making a new friend.
When I take a step back and look at my life, I am astounded by the amount of energy I can sometimes spend avoiding connection. I have my close friends, I have my family, and I have Twitter followers, but anyone outside that is someone to be avoided, or if that is not possible, then to be put up with until I get what I need. I know this makes me sound like a real jerk, and maybe I am, but I hope I’m not the only one who can admit that they’ve struggled with this feeling.
As I sat on the subway the next day, reflecting on how much fun I had had playing basketball the night before, I looked around at the people commuting with me and I was struck with a thought as if for the first time…
What if I could change my spirit of avoidance to a spirit of engagement in my fellow man and women? What if the people around me were not just blobs of moving matter only to be dealt with if they cut me off on the highway or don’t give me the right order at McDonalds? It took me only a second to realize that this thought was not revolutionary whatsoever, but that Jesus himself had talked about this thousands of years ago.
I knew the command “love your neighbor” was one of the “important” ones, but I always thought it was just because that’s the right thing to do. While I still believe that it is the right thing to do, I also believe that there is so much more to it than that. I don’t think Jesus gives us commands just because it’s “right”, He gives us commands because they are “good”, and good leads to life.
Loving our neighbor is not simply a fulfillment of our daily Christian duties, it is a call to experience life at it’s fullest. It is an opportunity to live the way we were ultimately created to, in connection with one another. It is an offer to give joy and to receive it, to enter into a transaction of the soul with another human being. It is an opportunity to do exactly what Jesus did, to show each and every person we come in contact with that they matter.
Hanging out with Joseph was not some profound, spiritual experience. We did not talk about salvation or Jesus, we talked about sports, girls, and music. I cracked some jokes, we followed each other on Instagram and we went our separate ways. What Joseph reminded me of though, was invaluable. He reminded me that fellow human beings are not roadblocks that get in our way, but they are beautiful pathways on which we can discover stories, give joy, and receive life.
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