An adapted extract of Henri Nouwen's thoughts on "Who Is My Neighbour" and "Crossing the Road for One Another" in his book, Bread for the Journey:
WHEN JESUS TELLS THE STORY of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question "Who is my neighbour?" he ends it by asking: "Which, ... do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits' hands?' The neighbour, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, "bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, ... lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him." My neighbour is the one who crosses the road for me!
We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.
LEARNT A FEW THAI PHRASES from our concierges while in Krabi, Thailand, over the last weekend. Among them was "muang nha-yoo phookon nharak" which means "lively town, lovely people". Krabi lively? Before the trip, my friend H. was even a little worried that this town could be so laid back that she would just 'rot' there. Boy, was she surprised!
Almost every day, we had delicious S$15 restaurant meals for two and excellent S$10 one-hour massages. No hidden plus plus. We also visited pristine beaches, snorkelled in crystal clear waters, attended a church service, and shopped for souvenirs at Ao Nang beach and Krabi town. In four short days, we each managed to have three suits tailored and fitted. On the last day, we wanted to go elephant trekking, but there was simply not enough time!
Was quite struck by the the beauty of the people in Krabi. Not only gentle and courteous, they are also often honest and considerate, asking for nothing in return. So many pleasant encounters: cheerful helpful concierges, a young man kindly opened the gate and doors of a locked church for us, a waiter informed us that garlic bread came with the soup when we wanted to order some, a stall-holder alerted us to a bag that H. left behind, a priest extended such a warm welcome to us (speaking in English during a Thai mass, switching on lights for our photo-taking, and showing us a newly arrived Madonna icon from Italy, etc.), a tuk-tuk driver phoned his friend to ferry us when his vehicle broke down while we were on it....
Come to think of it: H. had shown great bravado and open-mindedness in coming to a town that she thought could be quite dead. She had some physical problems, yet she went island-hopping and snorkelling on the second day. She's a devout Buddhist, yet she attended mass at a Catholic church on the third day. On our way home, she told me how much she had enjoyed them all.
So did i. Sweet memories kept surfacing: delicious meals by the beach, schools of colorful fishes in crystal-clear water, people wading across a beautiful sandbank that stretches from Tub Island to Chicken Island, charming Thai hymns and ancient icons in St Agnes' Church, relaxing 'aching' massages, thought-provoking conversations....
Yes, the best things in life are free (or almost free). In this case, it all started when one good "neighbour" chose to "cross the road" just a short while ago.
(See also Crossing The Road II.)
While reflecting on this, was reminded of the prejudice that i currently have towards Dan Brown's best-selling book, Da Vinci Code.
H. had read the book, and tried to tell me more about it during our Krabi trip. Having heard so much negative flake over the book through Catholic friends, Internet and The Catholic News, i began instead to tell her the 'truths' behind all the 'lies' that i'd heard.
Now, i remember my frustration with people who have judged us Catholics without trying to find out what we are all about. i realise i need to practise what my own 'preaching' -- "not to judge anything based on hearsay". Since i didn't have the time nor inclination to read the book, the least i could have done then was perhaps to be neutral for that moment, and listen to what she had to say?
By the way, would be good to keep in mind that there are many books by historians debunking the 'truths' in the Da Vinci Code, for example: Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine by Bart D. Ehrman.
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