“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:14 (NIV)
Earlier this year, our staff at Hilltop Ranch started a serious conversation around what word we would use for those who call Hilltop Ranch home. If you’re a parent around here, you might rightly say, “our kids.” If you’re a therapist, you might call the group “clients.” If you’re some kind of medical provider, you might say, “residents.” Of course, we recognize that each of these terms is appropriate in their own place.
But in wondering about how to best name our residents, we had to ask some purposeful questions. Primarily, what’s the most precise and robust way to name those who live at Hilltop Ranch? Who are they, actually, to God? Who are they to us? Who are they to the church, or to the community?
These are profound questions, both theologically and existentially, and they very quickly gain personal relevance to all of us, even if we think of our lives as being largely unaffected by disability. Indeed, who is anyone to anyone?
We wanted a word that told the truth, a word that resists the message that some people are out and some are in, that some are above and some are beneath. We wanted a term that was human and humanizing, a word that gave an invitation to the community to enter our home, and a word that communicated, “Ready or not, here we come.”
The larger truth is that each one of us – every human being – is a neighbor, belonging to a neighborhood.
There’s a lot that threatens to divide us today. There are structures that divide 6-year olds from 7-year olds, gatherings that divide the married from the unmarried, politics that divide the right from the left. Some of these divisions may well be inevitable in an organized civilization.
But it is our hope that Hilltop Ranch might be able to unite Neighbor to Neighbor. It is our hope that our Neighbors would be those who invite in and who receive invitations out. It is our hope that our home would preach a message – to all of us – that is very much needed today: that our speed isn’t our value, our memory isn’t our identity, and our independence isn’t our maturity.
The Gospel proclaims that our value is in Christ’s love, our identity is held in God’s memory of us and not the other way around, and our maturity is demonstrated by our admission of our dependence. If you are a person like me who regularly needs this reminder, I invite you to come spend some time with our – and your – Neighbors.