She was living in her car when she came to us at the pregnancy resource center in Chicago where I volunteered many years ago. The young woman came to our center fearing a pregnancy by her abusive boyfriend. In my role as a counselor, we talked through her options before administering the pregnancy test. Hands shaking, she emerged from the bathroom and placed it on the counter in our counseling room. It was negative. Relief washed over her face and she broke into a radiant smile. She gathered her things to leave, thanking me for the free test and space to talk.
However, we weren’t done yet. While no one else in her life seemed to care that she was living in her car, I did. “I don’t only care about you if you’re pregnant,” I told her. “I care about you.” As we ate lunch together, talking, I helped her plan and over the next two hours we called various domestic violence organizations until we found a place for her to stay, and began applications for food stamps, and the counseling she so desperately needed to leave that violence masquerading as love.
Hugging her as she left, I felt responsible for her, like the little sister I never had. She felt like family—because she was. This is what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is the invitation of a lifetime, because God knows we will spend our lifetime trying to get it right. Christ shows us that our neighbor is the one at our door most in need. To see our neighbor, we need our eyes wide open. To love them, as we love ourselves, what does this mean?
We love ourselves by wanting and working for the things needed for human flourishing: safety, freedom, food, shelter, health, community, love. We love our neighbor as ourselves when we want and work for those same things for our neighbor—that is, the person at our door most in need. As Dorothy Day said, “A cup of water given to a stranger is a cup of water given to Christ.”
To love those in need is to want security, freedom, food, shelter, health, community, love for them as much as we want and work for those things for ourselves. What am I willing to forego to secure these things for her?
When we have eyes to see our neighbor and hands ready to love them, we are not far from God’s Kingdom.
What is God inviting you to forego so you can love your neighbor as yourself?
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Sarah Babbs is a writer and mother of three, including twin toddlers. She writes about faith, social teaching, and navigating life as a motherless daughter and mother. You can find out more about her here.