Being a Good Neighbor: Community Engagement

Being a Christian and being a good neighbor go together like peas and carrots. Being a good neighbor means caring for our surroundings, which includes people, the Earth, and our community. Being in Nashville for a month has given me the opportunity to immerse myself into this new community around Trevecca and it has been so fulfilling. As an extroverted-introvert (someone who is shy around people that they are not familiar with), being a good neighbor in a new space can be really challenging, especially when you have no knowledge of your new surroundings. Here are some things I’ve learned in becoming a neighbor in this new community:

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  1. Learn About Your Community and Its Needs In order to impact your community, you have to understand the history, the leaders within the community, and the groupthink of the community. You don’t want to think you know everything about that community or that you have the magic answer to make the community better. The best way to do this is read up on your community and talk to the people who live there; assume they hold many of the answers to your questions. 

  2. Avoid Judgment Every community has its challenges. You may encounter things that may be tough to swallow or make you angry. Remember that God is working both in your heart and in the community.

  3. Let God Create the Change Let God use you as a vessel in your community. Give yourself to the Lord’s plans, and abandon your own biases and pride. Listen to God’s call to see where he wants to use your time and talents in the community. It is not through us that change will come to the community, but ONLY through God and his love for people. 

  4. Community Care Takes Time Relationships are the KEY to community building, because in order for people to trust you and care about your ideas, you have to build the relationships. It is also really important to understand that being a neighbor in the community will take time and community change doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged and trust that God is working in these relationships and space.

One of the wisest and most compassionate people our world has seen is Martin Luther King Jr. He put others before himself, he fought for justice for all, and in his efforts to bring equality for all, he glorified God’s Kingdom through love and compassion. He was a trailblazer whose community just happened to be America.  Even though many in that community hated him, he continued to press on. You don’t have to be the next MLK, but everyone has the opportunity to create some change in their community, wherever and whatever that looks like. I leave you with two quotes from MLK as you continue to seek what it looks like to be a good Christian neighbor:

“We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”

 “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”