This thinking has come about stemming from some situations of real or perceived need -- people experiencing crisis in health, relationship, bereavement, some very recent and some from a while back.
Ordinarily, I don't think a whole lot when responding to these situations. I just go with my gut: preparing a meal, providing transportation, listening and processing, including a lonely person in a gathering at home, trying to make a birthday special, finding a spontaneous small gift, visiting the hospital. Different situations call for different responses. I think that God awakens my awareness of a need and what I might do to fill that need, so the question of exactly who my neighbor might be is fortunately not among those I have been pondering for the past several days. I'm still asking the questions, though, and know I will be doing so for some time to come. They are not questions with quick and easy answers. As often is the case, I'm using my blog as a journal to keep track of the questions as I wrestle with them. Here are some of them:
- If someone asks me to give and I don't perceive a real need, should I say simply say "not this time," explain my reasons for not seeing the need, or suck it up and give anyway?
- Sometimes my gift is listening; if the recipient had hoped I would do a couple of loads of laundry, she may be disappointed and think I have let her down. What then?
- If I am a person in distress, is it right for me to have expectations of others that they will give to me? Or should I be surprised when they do?
- What if someone tells me that I have let him down, that I have not given enough to him in his difficult situation? Do I give more, even if I do not feel moved to do so?
- Are some kinds of giving more appropriate than others?
- If I organize some sort of a group effort to provide some kind of care, am I making others feel as though they are obliged to help?
- What about situations that go on and on and on? Will the recipient feel abandoned when I move on to a more acute need?
- And, finally, am I overthinking all of this?