Wayne, my neighbor, gave me a silly, furry, useful winter hat. It felt warm, and goofy, and like I was ready for a 1940’s style Russian invasion. The hat symbolizes three things: that looking silly never goes out of style, that the most practical things often embody the greatest loves, and that a love for your neighbor is a key to eternal life. Wayne passed away last week.
Immediately before the story of “The Good Samaritan,” in Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asks Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus reflected the question back to the man’s understanding of the Law. The man replied, ‘to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; AND to love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus confirms his response. But the man, wanting to justify himself, asks Jesus, “who is my neighbor?”
My family and I have traveled a lot… living in three countries, two continents, and visiting many other places besides. We have lived with the motto: wherever we are together, we are home. Wayne welcomed us to Edmonton. Wayne helped us feel at home here. Wayne acted with love towards us, showing us hospitality, standing with me in our yard or sitting together on his deck, working together with my son on drywall in his basement, sharing tools and pets, and labor… and food and beer. Wayne offered space. Ironically, Wayne had lived in my hometown of Brandon, Manitoba for many years, but moved away half a dozen years before I arrived on this planet. He went to Neelin High school, where my son went to a basketball camp.
Generations of people who come after Wayne, more than just his children and grandchildren, can learn from Wayne. The values that he embodied – the ability to grow his own food, to show hospitality to his neighbor, to care for the younger people in the neighborhood, the love for working with his hands, the care for all living things, the modest and tasteful hanging of Christmas decorations – are values that, indeed, Gen Xers and Yers, Millennials, and beyond would do well to heed.
Wayne would have never asked, “Who is my neighbor”. Wayne would have never tried to justify himself. Many people born after the late 1960’s may not have noticed these non-actions when they met Wayne or others of his generation. This lack of need to justify oneself, and the assumption that the people we meet are our neighbors are two attitudes that can avoid detection. But if we look for them… and notice them… and appreciate them… and receive them, then in fact, we may be transformed by them. We may in fact emerge into a connected community filled with members who act towards each other with love rather than trying to justify ourselves. Wayne embodies a way of living that cares for what is other as (at the same time / as the other side of the coin) as himself. And that, according to Jesus, is a key to eternal life.
In other words, by attending to the needs of himself and others, Wayne practiced eternal life here on Earth. I want to thank him for that example, and hope the Lord has been hospitable to him in heaven, as he was to us here in Edmonton.