I would guess we have all said, “If I had only known”. It usually happens when we have received some information about the tragedy or suffering of someone we know or love. We are generally a people who like to help and give comfort to those who suffer and so finding out that we might have missed an opportunity can cause us guilt or regret. If we had known the plight of those near us we could have made difference.
We live in a culture that seems to place a high value on being busy. Our schedules get filled up with activities and responsibilities and we have very little room for something more. We might like to spend time getting to know the joys and sorrows of others, but the press of life doesn’t seem to provide the opportunity. We will give a wave to the neighbors as we pass them, but we can’t find the time to invest in learning the real needs of people around us.
Building a relationship with those in our sphere of influence takes time, energy and desire. Let me put it this way, building relationship must be intentional. Relationships seldom grow by accident. They must rise to the top of our priority list if we are going the find the opportunity to grow them.
Jesus said, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16). Laying down our lives is not just a physical dying; it includes dying or putting aside the things that keep us from demonstrating love to others. One of the most valuable acts of love is making room in our busyness to listen. Love is taking an interest in the things happening in the lives of others. It is intentionally looking for ways and places to listen. It means being available when God puts opportunities in front of us to give our ears, hearts and hands to a neighbor.
Of course, we can’t reach everyone around us. We a people limited by time and circumstances in our relationships. However, God is not so limited by our failures and oversights. This is why we live by his grace and mercy. He forgives us for our busyness and distraction. That forgives reminds us that people are his priority. He bestows his grace so that we can be renewed in our desire to love as we are loved. He is working out a plan for us to learn how to lay down our lives for others. He leads us by the Holy Spirit to desire to get to know the people he places in our path.
By the way, it is never too late to get to know what is going on in your neighbor’s life. When you have learned of a need, even if you consider it late, send a card, make a call, or bring over the hot dish, because acts of love and kindness are always on time.