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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Bloggers Blog: Part Five-A

To Understand the Meaning of Neighbor

Happy May Day! Before we can talk about non-geographic “neighborhoods” in cyberspace, we need to define the word neighbor.

One time Jesus was talking to a lawyer who had heard him summarize the Ten Commandments with “Love the Lord your God completely AND love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer had a follow-up:

“Let’s define the terms. Who is my neighbor?"

Wouldn’t life be easier if Jesus had said, "Your neighbor is any person whose primary residential property is contiguous with your own and perpendicular to the thoroughfare of address." Loving “next-door neighbors” unconditionally would not always be easy, but the duty would at least be limited to a few occupants of two homes. Have you equally loved “as yourself” all of your next-door neighbors through the years? There’s the rub, and the rub becomes downright abrasive when Jesus re-defined neighbor through a story.

You know the one. It's called the Good Samaritan, a parable of unmerited kindness in an atmosphere of prejudice. As a creative exercise (not an attempt to "improve" upon the original), I've taken some liberties and written a paraphrased, NYC version below.
.................. ............................................ ...................

The suburban lawyer was glad to hear about loving his neighbors. He liked Joe to the south and Jim to the north—they got along great, but he wanted to make sure it didn’t include Josh on the back lot line. Josh was a jerk. He once cut down a Scotch Pine that was in this lawyer’s lot and all he said was “Sorry I didn't ask, but my dog kennel needed some sun.” It was that blasted dog kennel and the ugly mutt inside that the lawyer wanted most to block with the bushy tree, but he let it go. Oh, how he hoped Jesus’ answer only meant “next-door” neighbors on the same street.

But Jesus threw him a curve. The story had nothing to do with houses or lot lines. It was about this man who got knocked out, and robbed on a side street in New York City. He was lying there like one of those homeless guys you try not to look in the eyes.

Most of the passers by had learned how to step aside without looking down at those awkward glances, but some crossed the street because he was moaning and reaching out for help.

One man thought, “I can't tell if he's drunk or hurt, but I’m not getting close enough to find out.”

“I’m not getting involved,” another thought, “Last time I did I had to be a witness in court. ‘I know nothing... nothing,’” he said in a German accent. (He was actually Italian, but he loved that line from Sergeant Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes.)

Then this “red state” rancher comes walking along in a cowboy hat and boots. He was in New York on business, a trip that had flopped the second he walked into the client’s office with a Southern accent and a “Support the Troops” button on his lapel. So he cut the trip short and had a few hours to see the sights before his flight.

Everywhere he went people stared. He walked by some war protestors on a corner and one of them took a swing at him with a “Retreat and Impeach” sign. He tipped his hat and said, “Much obliged, Ma’am,” thinking to himself “Toto, We’re not in Kansas anymore.” (He was actually from Texas, but he loved that line.)

Then he comes upon this beat-up man by the curb and quickly stoops down to help. He takes a bottle of water from his coat and a bandana from his back pocket. As the blood's wiped off the fallen man's face, he looks up and whispers,"Gracias." It’s clear that there are no serious injuries and the man insists on NOT going to the hospital and NOT calling the police. The Texan fully understands what that means. Being from San Antonia, he knew the confident look of his Hispanic neighbors and the skittish look of their visiting friends who came and went with work. So he helps him up and walks him down the block to the fine hotel where he was staying.

The regal doorman stopped them. “Sir, he can’t come in here.”

But the Texan said, “He’s with me, and my room’s booked for another two nights.”

The Mexican man smiled as they crossed the grand lobby and the kind stranger approached the front desk.

"I'm registering this gentleman to stay in my room. I won’t be needing it. He could use a hot tub and some rest, room service meals—and how ‘bout one of them backrubs the brochure talks up. He’s kinda sore. Oh, and some clothes from that men's shop there—which by the way doesn't even know what a Stetson is. And if he wants it, a train ticket to anywhere he says. Put it all on my card. Here’s my cell phone number. Let me know if he needs anything else. Now…could you please call a cab. I have a plane to catch.”
Turning to leave with a smile, he gave his new friend his hat. A few days later the man was feeling fine. He sat a long time at the top of the hotel's back stoop before beginning his walk to Grand Central.
Jesus paused and asked, “Who was neighbor to the man?”

The lawyer answered. “The one who picked him up and helped him without judging or asking what he already knew.”

“Good answer. I call it showing mercy. Now you go and do likewise.... even if a guy cuts down your Scotch Pine.”

“Yes, Lord. Hey... how did you know about the tree?… oh, yeah, I forgot,” he said sheepishly as Jesus put something in his hand.

"Here's the penny for your thoughts."
(He was actually omniscient, but he loved that line.)
[Author's note: Why NYC? Because they have a "Good Samaritan" law that came from a well known case of eye witnesses refusing to help a person in need. Why Texas? Because I think people in "red states" are treated prejudicially as "red necks" and bigots, which is as bigoted as any other form of prejudice. Why a Mexican? Three reasons: They are our neighbor to the south and in some respects our neighbors in need; I personally still have a ways to go in forming a proper attitude toward those who illegally cross our borders... I wanted to preach at myself; and third, "Gracias" shares its roots and meaning with "Grace," and that one word is what this story is all about.]

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Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

I tend to think bloggers are a much kinder group than actual neighbors. Something about the physical distance makes people feel safe when they disagree with others.

1/5/07 9:39 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

The Good Samaritan story is one of my favorites from the Bible. I like your New York rendition of it too.

I wonder how we can apply this parable to our experience in the blogs. We are not likely to run across bloggers who are homeless and hungry. But if we are sensitive, we might recognize bloggers who are in need of something. That something might be friendship, a pat on the back, encouragement, comfort, sympathy.

1/5/07 9:46 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

JR, it IS easier to be nice in cyberspace. I've been feeling a little guilty about that.

You're also right in that due to the distance of being a "cyber neighbor" our deeds seem to be limited to words, but there is a point to laying this foundation... you'll see.
This post is a segue to the next, but you're both on the right track.

1/5/07 10:05 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

Tom. Thank you for the prayers spoken on my family's behalf in your staff meeting. I appreciate that.
Funny. I have had the Hogan's Heroes Theme song in my head since your Sargeant Schultz reference. Those theme songs just stick for some reason!
On a more thoughtful, serious note, your post here also reminded me of the interview Oprah had with me on her show- specifically about how I could 'see myself as the other woman' [referring to the woman who killed Teagan]. On camera, it looks like I don't know how to respond, but I was actually trying to 'edit myself' as I stumbled over how to rephrase, "she's a middle-aged, middle-class white American woman just like me". I think I said something like, "she's an average American woman who lives not too far from where I was at the time- it's not like our lives were that different".
{I promise you that I have a valid point here, if you allow me the space.} In the years since that time, I've had plenty of opportunity to think about her, and wonder why, and even in recent years, my heart has changed and I sometimes turn the table and ask myself, "If I had known this woman before July 29, 2001, would that have made a difference?"
It's a sad thought for me to have to consider. In another time, just a few days after Teagan died, while Chip was still in serious condition and Wyndham outcome was yet unknown, I found myself in the [Flint] Hurley Hospital ER waiting with some of the most downtrodden, messed up individuals I had even seen. I, myself, was in a wheelchair, unable to walk, and reeling with grief and heartache, and yet I could hardly 'stomach the fact' that despite my mental, emotional and physical brokeness, I was in better 'shape' than everyone that came and went through the ER doors that night. At one point, as "my eyes were being opened" to the reality of these 'poor people', I was crying with my mom at my side and asked her if she would just let me hold open my arms and announce that I was willing to give hugs to whomever needed one. I am in tears as I write this, simply re-living that memory. I will never forget the despair in that place. It had faces and voices and a smell I will never forget.
It's been an ongoing 'struggle' of mine, how I live with brokeness, and yet I am WHOLE. This post, and the sermons on justice & mercy, and knowing what I saw and what God has done for me, has me on a personal, spiritual journey, that I'm have yet to determine where it will take me or where I will end up. All I have to do is think of the cross. Jesus didn't die on a cross so that I could have a nice house, and a terrific husband, a couple of running vehicles, or the added blessings of my kids. God didn't give me the Holy Spirit to make my life easy, or to fill me with peace- although I have that. I'm beginning to see clearly, that God gave His Son as a redemption for my sin; He gave me His Spirit for the assurance of salvation.
For me to NOT live that out in my life- HIS GRACE AND MERCY in me- would be my greatest failure in life. It is a struggle, in this culture- in this comfortable, just live your own happy, peaceful, quiet life, mind-your-own-business, type of society in which we are a part- to live differently. To make a difference. To reach the downcast, the hurting, the 'poor', the broken and weary.
Yet, the burden that grows more heavily on my heart, is the sorrow and shame I feel that it has taken something so horrible, so personal, so painful to me, in order that I might seek to 'step up to the plate'. I have not lived a very loving life to my neighbors. In the past, and even oftentimes, at present. I pray that one day I will have the opportunity to tell the woman who killed Teagan, that I am sorry that I didn't pray for her and help her, BEFORE it was too late. I'm beginning to realize that chit-chat on the street and sharing baked goods with those who live nearby isn't enough. It most certainly isn't the reason that Christ died on the cross. I am humbled that He even calls me to share His love with 'my neighbors'...I am grateful to be used by Him to do my part. Whatever that may be.
So, thank you again for your prayers at staff meeting. I know I need them to be effective FOR Him. Thanks...and my apologies for the length of my comment. Once again.

1/5/07 10:19 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Is kindness to strangers a commandment? No I think not, did all those people in NYC commit sin when they walked by another person in need? No I think not.

Did the Texan do a good work? Yes I think so. But not what he did but rather why he did it. An innate sense of helping them that need help done without prior thought. This is loving your neighbor as you would love yourself.

Hell I don't know one guy next door to me other than a wave as we pass and I can barely abide the family next door to me. Yet when a need for my assistance is called for then I just do it because the hole is there and it needs be filled by someone and if I happen to be the one there at the moment *shrug* without thought I will give as I am able.

Just don't ask me to donate to any organization because experience tells me they steal as much or more than they give via aid.

Funny thing I posted a similar thought today on my blog.

1/5/07 10:40 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I've been following your blog for quite a while now and being fairly new to blogging myself, I am really enjoying this series about "Why Bloggers Blog". I am one of those people who discoverd blogging while trying to work through some "dark stuff" that has recently happened in my life. It is so ironic that you talked about "loving thy neighbors" as just yesterday, I was literally plotting out ways that I could avoid the woman I just met who lives directly behing me. Long story short, her grandson is the same age as my son, they've finally just "discovered" each other over the fence and we officially met this past Friday afternoon. It was about 2:00pm and my "neighbor" completely reeked of alcohol while she was babysitting her grandson. As you can imagine, not the best first impression and of course this concerns me for future play dates, etc. There's more to the story, but I don't want to take up too much of your space.
Anyway, I found myself recently frustrated with blogging because my intent was to create a place that family and friends could interact and yet only one person that I've ever seen in the flesh has ever left a comment on my blog, all the rest of the comments are from my "new neighbors in Bloggerville". Who knew that it was the encouragement, comfort and sympathy from total strangers that I've needed all along.
Sorry for the long comment!
Julie in Colorado

2/5/07 9:46 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Whew! That was a long comment :-), but I hope some take the time to read it. Your thoughts from that ER room tie in perfectly. I have learned much from your testimony.
On a lighter note, I have the Hogan's Heroes theme in my head, too. That is actually old German Hymn, but you may find it in an American hymnal under the title: "Whosoever Surely Meaneth Me." Click on the "S" in Hogan’s to hear it.

Walking Man,
I don't know my current neighbors as well as I should. That will come up in the next post.
Do I think it's a sin to pass a homeless person? You could not walk from point A to B in any metro area if you stopped each time. But in some cases, James 4:17 may apply: "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin," but I would say there are many factors to consider in each case. There are things I would do that I would not want my daughter or wife to do. I'm also cautious about organizations I don't know. There is a good one called "Samaritan’s Purse" that is very good. It's funny how separate posts sometimes relate. I'll check it out tonight.

Thank you for this timely comment. I just made up the back fence neighbor part so it's especially interesting that it hit a chord in your case. I'm so glad to know that there are people who read here that I haven't yet met. I don't have a way of knowing other than comments. I'm looking forward to reading your story.

2/5/07 6:12 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I do not believe in a coincidence... I prefer to call it a "God-incidence", and that is exactly what I have found tonight as I read your blog. You give an excellent "Good Samaritan" story and I read every word along with every comment when at the very end, I find Julie. I found Julie's blog somehow (???) months ago and she has been on my mind since the day I read her entire blog. I have tried to encourage her, email her, and be a good "blogging neighbor" to her; because I knew exactly how it felt to have your child die when they are just starting to live. After reading her comment here tonight, I know my effort has been worth it, and this is just one more example of how blogging can really help a "neighbor" even if you have never met them. I urge your readers to make a difference in the blogging world by reaching out to bloggers that need encouragement. This "God-incidence" has really blessed me today. Thank you for sharing this story and making a difference in each person that stops by "Patterns of Ink"! Please visit Emma Kate's Page, written by her mom Julie and encourage her if you have the time. She is one great mom!

2/5/07 9:12 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, love your neighbor is basically the same as the golden rule, isn't it? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I believe we are all part of God, and therefore we are part of each other. When we show kindness to another person, we are showing kindness to the whole community including ourselves. Does that make any sense?

Okay, here's where I get to be "frank". I have met people on the blogs with whom I thought I had become friends. We had had a friendly blogging relationship for over a year. For some reason which I have no idea of, both suddenly "shunned" me (I can't think of a different word). I would never do anything to offend anyone, it's not my style. So it puzzled me and continues to puzzle me. The thing is, both of them are fervently religious and quote the scriptures on their blogs every day. Am I missing something? Are they missing something? Kindness to one's neighbor comes in many forms, as does unkindness. But so does forgiveness.

You have read my blog enough, I think, to know that I would never intentionally offend someone, especially a friend. The blogging community is a real community, as "real" as the ones we live in.

My question is, why does it always seem to be the folks who are the most pious, who expend so much energy holding onto ill will? I have seen it time and time again. My sister-in-law was like that with certain people. She used to call it righteous indignation. Balderdash! Kindness is kindness and unkindness is unkindness. “Love the Lord your God completely AND love your neighbor as yourself.” It is a wonderful philosophy to follow no matter what religion one practices.


2/5/07 10:20 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I must admit that when Julie said she gets more comments from strangers than from family, I could relate, but I didn't want to say anything because I don't want my family members to stop reading here. :-)
I am so glad you filled in the blanks and that you've been a help to her and each other. That is one of the wonderful things about this "neighborhood." (More about that in the next post)

You've mentioned this situation in previous comments. I'm sorry you went through it. Sometimes things like that happen. There is usually a cause and it is frustrating when you don't know what it was so you can make it right, but if we apply the Golden Rule... I'm confident that open forums are not an affective place to indirectly confront or truly solve such matters. Talking directly to the person you've offended (or who has offended you) in as non-public a venue as possible is always the best approach. That is one of the inherent limitations of this cyber "neighborhood." (More about that in the next post.) It may just be one of those situations that you have to let go. Remember this… no matter what our training, our upbringing, or our knowledge of scripture… we’re all broken people in a broken world and sometimes the rough edges show and we “blow it.” That’s true in real life; and it’s true in virtual neighborhoods like the blogosphere. Wherever humans are interacting…it’s going to happen.

2/5/07 11:25 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, you're so right. Silly me. I have to move on and forget it. Thank you.


3/5/07 1:23 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It isn't silly. :-) It can be perplexing because it's beyond our ability to solve in this venue.

This is to ALL
(because I'm confident that we've all had this experience).

Both positive and hurtful experiences in cyberspace are good reminders of the human condition and our need for "RELATIONSHIP" (vertical relationship with God) and affirmation, acceptance, love, etc. from among (horizontal, person to person relationships). The latter can be met to varying degrees in settings like a "neighborhood" (real or "cyber").

Maintaining such relationships is like making music, finding the "notes" that can bring harmony and trying to avoid those that bring dissonance.

When you consider the fact that we're all "broken" ("out of tune"), the horizontal relationships are in desperate need of Grace Notes (from above). Beneath all the lyrics there is a need and motif of forgiveness.

3/5/07 6:53 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

In response to your last comment...your musical metaphor 'struck a chord' with me. =) You know I believe in a growing spiritual relationship in life as the only way to find true Joy and Peace in this world, as well as having assurance for the next world. I just have to add though, that in my life, the very fact that there have been 'dissonants' and 'dischord' have been the times in my life that I have grown the most. My faith has been tested, the tears and questions have poured freely, and now I recognize that those 'minor moments' are a very essential part of the 'musical score' of my life. The fact that God is the one composing the piece has been the very reason I can sing- even when the tune sounds so wrong or out-of-place!
What I am beginning to understand is that trying to avoid the dissonants and create only perfect melodies would make for a pleasant score, but it wouldn't necessarily have the depth and layers and qualities that COULD come from my life. My life might sound 'pretty', but it in the very dark parts and in the growth that comes out of that, that I have seen God produce the 'best sound in me'. I am learning I have to sub,it my whole life to Him in order for it to work...but it is a blessing for me as it unfolds.
So, thanks for the thoughts, here, as usual, that make me flesh out my own. I love that about blogging.

3/5/07 9:16 AM  
Blogger Christal said...

Hello, I have read your blog a few times here and there... This one was just SCREAMING at me... Look around, people everywhere are in need.. EVERYONE, we all need something, some need alot more then others but most just worry about themselves and pity themselves instead of truley stepping up and doing something. I have had several people in my life, friends,family and several others offer their "help" while my hubby has been away on deployment but when something has broke or went wrong there was no one there to help. I know to rely on on God. I just think it is sad the world is the way it is! This probally mad no sense, my thoughts are all over the place with this post of yours.. It really is a great one, my jaw was on the ground in awe!

3/5/07 1:58 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

You are so right about the hard times helping to shape us. I haven't had time to research this, but somewhere recently I heard that the trees in the "biosphere" experiment kept dying and they couldn't figure out why until one expert studied it and explained that it was due to "lack of wind." Evidently, hard winds help make trees strong and healthy. Hmmmm...
The music analogy was only meant to apply to Josie's frustration about people who write dissonant notes in the name of righteous indignation. My use of "note" was sort of a play on words to include comments, etc. between people. We know that sort of dissonance is a part of life, but "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Romans 12:18

3/5/07 5:04 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thank you for reading here and joining in. I have also re-read this post and it convicts me. It is far too easy to be a "good neighbor" in cyberspace than in the real world around us, but it is important just the same that people are encouraging each other in places like this.
I want to thank you on behalf of all who support the troops for your husbands service. They are doing a great job over there. I have many former students there. They write. They are proud of the service and sacrifice they are making for us and for those "neighbors" who need help. We all pray for a certain victory and clear transition to the Iraqi who must eventually maintain their own peace. Withdrawal is not defeat, but it can only happen when it makes sense to those closest to the realities of the great strides being made with schools, hospitals, and infrastructure in that country.
Thank you.

3/5/07 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed about a week and have been catching up. Thank you for taking your time with this whole why bloggers blog thing. Blogging is new to me. I do it to clear my head. It is more like journaling to me. I do not leave comments, but I wanted to say this has been interesting and I am glad there is more.

3/5/07 7:24 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It has been an interesting topic. Two more posts to go. As an anonymous commenter, you'll get a kick out of one part of the next post.
There are varying levels of anonymity we all use here in the blogging neighborhood.

3/5/07 9:26 PM  

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