I went to a conference put on by the Navigators recently. It was on being a neighbor and how to love your neighborhood. It was deeply encouraging and I had good practical things to take away from it. But it ended with this quote that I feel sums up so much of what I feel like I tell others.
“It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not a simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that too my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing should be to know the people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not silly like them, but truly love, them.” ~ Henri Nouwen