“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42
I grew up in a small mountain town of 1,000 permanent residents. It was the kind of upbringing where your life intermingles with the lives of others; where you know their stuff and they know yours.
My parents had a group of about 4 other families who became like family to me. It wasn’t uncommon for the parents of these families to come over to our house and play cards on a Saturday night. They were there for my birthday parties, my confirmation at church and my choir concerts. The parents in this group watched out for everybody’s kids, and if somebody needed to be picked up from school, they pitched in. If one of them was going “down below” to the city to go shopping, they checked to see if anybody needed anything, because it was a 45-minute drive.
These families invested their lives in each other. Nobody kept score. There was just an unwritten agreement that everyone would pinch-hit when they needed to.
After 10 years of living in this small town, my dad was transferred to another state, and we moved away. But those families remained “family” to me. When my mom and dad died within 5 years of each other, most of the families, including the kids now grown, traveled out of state to come to their memorial services. They were the “family” who stood beside me.
Sadly, it seems like we don’t want to invest ourselves in others’ lives anymore. Recently, I was preparing to fly to a friend’s house for a week. My daughters were going to spend the week with their dad, and they were going to take our two dogs with them. However, both girls had overnight activities the night after I left, so I had to find some interim help with the dogs until the girls could take them. I called a good friend’s daughter and asked if she could come over and feed the dogs one night, come back later and put them in the house for the evening, then come back the next morning and let them back out. I was willing to pay her for the imposition. It would give her some spending money and keep me from putting the dogs into an expensive kennel.
This friend lives about a five-minute drive from my home, or about a 20-minute walk. My friend’s daughter called me the night before I left and told me her mom said she couldn’t do it–her mom didn’t want her walking at night–and that her mom wouldn’t drive her over, either. I understood the part about not walking at night, but was virtually stunned that her mother wouldn’t drive her. It wasn’t that they had other plans; it was simply that it was inconvenient.
When I spoke to my adult friend, she said that her mom had taught her to say “no” so that her life doesn’t get over-burdened. However, this particular “no” not only kept her from being inconvenienced, but it impacted me emotionally and financially. I was deeply hurt and I had to quickly find a kennel which cost me about $125.
When we do not extend ourselves to help others, we lose out on far more than we realize. First, we miss out on the opportunity to be an integral part of the lives of others, and to feel that we are actually needed and valued in this life. We miss out on the lovely, deep-rooted “community” that is created when we invest in others’ lives, and they invest in ours. We also miss out on the reward that comes from our heavenly Father, not just when we get to heaven, but in this life.
Jesus said, “For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38b) When we withhold ourselves from people because we’re afraid that they will take advantage of us, inconvenience us, or take up our “valuable” time, we are making clear to God what our standard of measure is, and we can be absolutely sure that He will give back to us in the same standard of measure. We will find that we are not blessed with friends, our own close-knit “community,” or someone who’s there for us when we are in a tight spot. We haven’t “paid it forward.” This is yet another natural law that God has put into place.
As this world spirals downward spiritually and economically, we need each other more and more. Let’s invest in each other, give of ourselves generously, and reap the glorious rewards of friendships of the rarest kind–the kind that become family.