Your Neighbor, Yourself

“Treat your neighbor as you treat yourself.”
This is a maxim common with all religions and humanity, but sometimes difficult to interpret because of our own prejudices. How far does this obligation go? Who is our neighbor? Most of us don’t even know our neighbor living next door. To love our neighbor, what do these words really mean? Read this retelling of an ancient tale with thought, a narrative that is common in our day, and decipher for yourself.

Late on a warm summer afternoon, a man was walking home from his city’s annual Gay Pride Festival. Witnessing the respect and acceptance from many different civic groups marching in the long parade down the main thoroughfare that morning, gave the young man such encouragement. Spending the afternoon strolling through the festival, he saw many booths of every attribute, from politicians promoting their platforms, religious groups offering their sanctuary, food vendors enticing you to visit their storefronts, local businesses showcasing their accommodations and wares. People seemingly from every demographic were present that day — gay couples, straight couples, parents of LGBT children, siblings with their gay brother or sister, transgender people of all colors, gay and straight religious leaders. It was a good day to actually feel alive, to not feel shamed for simply existing, even though he considered himself a man with privilege while being gay.

Barely a couple blocks on his walk home, a small group of people just exited a convenience store and casually approached him. They asked him where he had been, where he was going. The man politely answered their questions, as the group seemed friendly enough, and it had been an uplifting day. Suddenly the pleasantries disintegrated into vile hatred. The group grabbed him and flung him behind the bushes. They started throwing punches and kicking him. Slurs and obscenities were hurled at this man for being at a gathering of the gays. They stomped him to the ground and stripped him. They stole his cell phone, his wallet, and his clothes. After pummeling the man, the group collected themselves to snap pics to share online. They laughed a good laugh, slapped each other on the back for taking care of another faggot, and went along their way.

It seemed as if hours had passed before the man regained consciousness. He did not know where he was, not sure of what exactly had happened. He realized that he was naked, beaten very badly, and relatively concealed from passersby. In great agony, he pulled himself closer to the sidewalk. Assuming that the festival might be coming to a close, he hoped someone would walk by and help him. He saw one of his local politicians approaching. He whimpered out for help, drawing the politician’s attention. Surely he will help, as the lawmaker had used the man’s name in his political campaigns.
The politician had marched in the parade that morning, had worked the festival, and now was walking back to his car. He had felt really good about himself and the campaigning he had accomplished at the festival. He had made many promises to the gay community, appeasing them with promises for a safe and secure future. Along his path, he saw someone lying in the grass along the sidewalk, moaning and groaning. Oh great, another passed out drunk, high on something, he thought as he crossed the street. It’s been a long day showcasing my presence and my support. My agenda doesn’t have time for this. I need to get home and post an update of how my political party is the best party for the gays.

In the apartment building across the street, a middle-aged woman cautiously stepped out onto her balcony after hearing a scuffle in the streets below. It was such a wonderful day, hearing the celebrations of life from her balcony, where she had hung a rainbow flag in solidarity. Now this commotion disrupts such a peaceful day, she thought. She saw something lying motionless, what might be a person huddled under the bushes. Oh great, another gay has been mugged in my neighborhood. She saw another man approaching, and assumed he would help whoever was lying there. What is becoming of this city, she said to herself. So much violence and hatred against those people, she thought. I’m going to change my profile pic, that way my friends will know my disgust with all this violence. After all, gay rights are human rights.

Coming from the other direction, a man carrying a religious book approached on his way to a study with his friends. The bloodied man saw him, and saw kindness and happiness in the smile of the man approaching. The man carrying the book however, saw the beaten man, saw ahead in the distance the Pride Festival drawing to a close, and felt a bit awkward. Oh my, this must be a gay man, he thought. He had guarded sympathy for the man. He thought celebrating “pride”, isn’t that rather shallow and boastful, look where it got this man. He hesitated, wondering what would happen if someone from the study saw him helping this man. They would assume he supported the gays, and question his values for traditional marriage of one man and one woman. Maybe they might even think I am gay. Fearing for his religious convictions being called into question, the man quickly dashed across the street. When I get to our meeting, I will ask the group to say a silent thought of kindness for the gays and the lesbians in this troubled world.
An older gay man saw the peril, fearing for his own safety, and the possibility of being outed, turned the other direction and walked away, guessing someone else will step up and help.

A young woman was walking along the sidewalk across from the man. She saw the naked man, and shuddered with great disgust. Her polished morals were troubled. See, I knew it. All those gays and lesbians, all they do at that festival is run around naked, flaunting their horrid sexual proclivities and lifestyle. Those tender children who were so innocently at the parade, they were forced to watch such gross indecency. Those people, even my sister, make such a big fuss about demanding their human rights. What about my rights? Why do they think they need special rights? I’m going to write a letter to the editor, demanding that our city shut down this atrocity, that people must elect politicians who would never allow such filth in our upstanding state.

From that same convenience store, a tough-looking character of a differing ethnicity walked toward his older car with his young daughter. The pulverized man saw them. Under different circumstances, he would never dare ask for help from someone who looked like that. The older man looked too rugged with that leather jacket emblazoned with what looked like biker decals and patches. They aren’t even my race, would they even help me. The beaten man simply had no fear left in him, and moaned out in pain for help.
As the man clad in the leather jacket was about to open the car door, he heard what sounded like an injured animal. He had had a rough day, harshly fighting with his ex-wife about custody of their daughter. Harmful words were flung between the parents, with the daughter believing that she was the problem. It looked like the whole world was against him. He just wanted to get home and put the day behind him, to start a new week. Even though completely drained of any emotion, his curiosity with the noise got the best of him.
Against his better judgement, he drew near, and found the bloodied, half-conscious, naked man lying halfway under the bushes. He recognized that they were of differing races. The cautious stranger thought of his own upbringing, remembering those Golden Rule words taught to him at an early age. He tenderly felt for a breath. Not wanting to startle the beaten figure, he asked with gentle care in his voice if he could help. The injured man forced out a whisper of, “Yes.” The father told his daughter to get a blanket out of their car. He then called 9-1-1 on his own cellphone.
As he waited for his daughter to return, he sat down in the damp grass and cradled the man’s bloody head in his lap. He asked the sobbing man if there was anyone he could call. The shattered man said there was no one; his family had disowned him years ago. The daughter returned with a warm and worn blanket to cover and comfort the stranger. Knowing the man could slip into an unconscious state, he and his daughter kept the man awake by asking the man about his life, about his day, just anything to keep him feeling safe.
Waiting for the ambulance to arrive, they stayed in presence with the battered man to comfort him. The father asked the paramedics which hospital they were taking the victim. He and his daughter followed the ambulance in their car to the emergency room. As the nurses and doctors rushed to tend to the patient, the concerned stranger went to the registration desk. He gave his insurance information to the staff, along with his contact information, telling the receptionist to have all billing sent to him. The kindly man returned to his daughter in the car, and they drove home, exhausted, talking about a fundraiser for this young man.

A few days later, the man was well enough to head home to his apartment. He worried with great stress about the pending hospital bills which would bury him deep in debt. Work had given him time off to recover. After several months, the medical bills never arrived, so he called the financial services office at the hospital. He stated his confusion, and asked when the bills were going to start rolling in. The friendly woman on the other end of the phone checked his file, and told him that his bills were already paid in full. He asked her how that was possible. She investigated into the records. She found a notation that a man explicitly stating that he remain anonymous, had paid all of the hospital expenses. Another individual has taken care of everything, she pleasantly informed the man. As he pushed the button to end the call, tears came to his eyes and followed down a scar on his cheek. He reflected upon those who refused to help him, and remembered that it was the least likely person who had helped him.

Several different people crossed their paths with this young man that summer day, each with their own different interpretations of this predicament. One group saw a faggot that needed to be taught a lesson. A polished politician saw a man whose story could be used for his own political prowess. A witness across the way at a safe distance looked upon the man as another social cause to rally for. A person with religious values was torn with conflicting convictions by this sad situation in society. A closeted individual feared being outed. A citizen, knowing of lawmakers who support her beliefs, had intent to stop such people from demanding special rights. A stranger, who had been downtrodden before, with compassion did what he could to help another human in need.
Luke 10:25-28 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
Galatians 5:14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Micah 6:8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Who was the one that helped their neighbor? It is said, love your neighbor as yourself. Think about this story, and discover for yourself who your neighbor is.

Written by Kevin R. Tengesdal, November 14, 2016 • Prairie Rainbow Link


 

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