loving your online neighbor

You don’t have to be a trained researcher to notice the trend and see how comments can turn negative on social media — how they can rip and tear at a person. I know none of us would ever do that, ever forget that there is a person behind the pixels, but are we doing anything to prevent it?

The only way to fight the dark is to bring the light.

Are we doing that for our neighbors?

When we see the story about the car accident and read the disparaging comments do we just continue to scroll through our news feed or do we write a message of hope?

What are we contributing to the conversation?

Earlier this year I instituted a daily quota for myself — five positive interactions on Facebook and five on Twitter. On the days I stick to it, I hit the like button for everything from cute kid pictures to status updates from bestselling authors. I jot notes of sympathy and encouragement. I find posts from bloggers who have exposed bits of their souls, and I share their articles and praise their work.

It’s small, I know. But it is light.

And I have to believe every little bit helps.

31 days of loving your neighbors
31 days of loving your neighbors
So, funny things happen when you pray to be more loving. You get more opportunities to love — even when you’d rather not.

That’s what happened to me at least when someone side swiped our car. The mirror and half the hubcap are gone and there are new scars that look suspiciously like the emotional scars I have from this year.

I’ve never dealt with so much death and sickness in the pages of one calendar, never taken so many days off work to grieve and comfort and find mirrors.

And I’m struggling. I’ve said one quick prayer for the person who hit our car, the person who added another eye-rolling hassle to our year. (Really I just tossed the person in half-heartedly during a dinner time prayer. Does that even count?)

Loving our neighbor isn’t always easy… but I’m working on it.

You know all those wonderful things you’d like to do for your neighbors? Flowers when they are sick. Inviting them over for tea. Spoiling the kids a tiny bit.

It all takes money, and sometimes a tight budget makes it tough to be as generous as you’d like to be.

But I do have some suggestions…

loving your neighbors on a budget

loving your neighbor on a budget

Those flowers you’d like to take to the hospital? You could stop by a thrift store and buy a vase or a pot — maybe even something not originally designed to hold a plant. I bought one this week for $1.50 because all green tags were half off. If you have the space, you could grow an easy-to-propagate ivy or a spider plant and then your get well wishes would be very affordable, especially if you plan ahead and have one or two potted plants available all the time.

loving your neighbors on a budget

Interested in inviting someone over for tea or maybe a casual dinner with a friend and her husband? With three boys, I don’t always have extra glasses, much less extra place settings, and I don’t want to invest in more until the boys are a bit older and are able to be more gentle. So, I picked up seven place settings of vintage china for $15 at a thrift store. It was a small investment of money and storage space — and I won’t be upset when something gets broken.

If you are looking for ways to save time and money on meals, there are several Websites full of great ideas.

loving your neighbors on a budget

Need a small gift? I’m planning to have the boys paint these small wooden bowls and then use them to hold keys and jewelry but I got this idea from my very talented friend Alice — who shows you how to take this upcycling project to a chic new level.

loving your neighbors on a budget

If a jewelry holder isn’t the right gift, consider browsing your recycling bin for free glass jars. Most labels come off easily with hot water and then you can fill them with cookies or beautiful handmade projects like these.

loving your neighbors on a budget

My family loves Story Cubes, where you roll the cubes and use whatever it lands on to create a story. I wanted to personalize the game a bit for a recent trip we took to the Adirondacks, so I took camping stickers and added them to wooden blocks that I found at a craft store. Easy… and a great, inexpensive gift for kids!

What budget-friendly suggestions do you have for loving your neighbor?

I’ve always been fascinated by prayers — I think because they really let you have a sacred glimpse inside a person’s soul. So, each Sunday during October I’ll share a prayer here and I’d love it if you would add your prayer as well.

This week we’ll focus on our physical neighborhood… the houses closest to ours.


Thank you for my neighbors — the ones I know by name and the ones I’ve yet to form a relationship with. I don’t know what challenges they are facing behind those closed doors, but I pray that you would give them strength and courage and hope. And Lord? If there is anything my family and I can do to help, please guide us in sharing your never-ending love.

I ask that you bless each and every home on our street with joy and peace. Watch over all of us, Lord, and help us all.



Dear readers, when I announced this 31-day project Lucy Alonzo wrote to me with her own thoughts on how we learn to love our neighbors. She is graciously allowing me to share them with you here…

It seems to me that the easiest way, and perhaps a necessary starting point, to learn how to love is by being loved. The best way is from a loving family. If we grow up surrounded by love, and particularly if we are told often that we are loved, and that God loves us, that is ideal — but but unfortunately very rare! Even with the best intentions, we parents tend to fall far short of the goal of nurturing our children that way. Fortunately many children who did not experience much love at home find some one else who fills that role, whether it is a neighbor, a relative, a teacher, a coach, a scout leader.

As I look back over my life (from my current age of 77), one experience of love stands out as most significant. When my youngest daughter was 4, I was having lots of problems, many of them due to choices I had made. One day a friend was visiting, with her 4-year-old son, and while the children played in the fenced yard, we were having coffee and conversation in the living room. We could hear their happy voices so we knew they were having fun. But then we heard water running in the kitchen for what seemed like longer than usual so we went to look. What an appalling mess they had made! They had brought earth from the flower beds onto the back steps landing to make a “garden.” Then they had tried to clean it up — but instead of using a broom, they tried a wet mop. Now, both well covered with mud, they were sitting on each side of the double kitchen sink with their legs in it, and muddy soap suds cascading across the kitchen floor. Well, the visit ended abruptly, and I worked on cleaning up my daughter and the mess she had made — and I did manage to be gentle with her, merely suggesting that if she ever found herself in a similar situation she should ask for my help sooner rather than later! It was while I was mopping the kitchen floor that I had an overwhelming experience — God my Heavenly Father was telling me very clearly that, just as I loved my daughter enough to clean up the huge mess she had made, He loved me and would help me clean up the mess I had been making of my life.


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