Article of the week: Are we good neighbours?

2 January 2021


Enabled member Annmarie Batty shares an experience that made her think about how Jesus treated people

VENTURING out to the shops during lockdown I obtained what I needed quicker than usual, except for some fish. I had 30 minutes to wait before the fishmonger’s van was due.

Prior to lockdown I could have found a café to wait in, but now they were closed. At the T-junction where the van normally would park I tried to lean against a wall, but my knees and back were becoming painful. If I’d persisted I might have fallen over. I had the option of giving up the idea of fresh fish for the week or sitting down to wait. I decided to sit down – on the pavement.

Near where I sat there used to be a raised flowerbed, but because drug users had made it a gathering point, it had been removed.

As I sat on the ground with my two bags of shopping beside me, it quickly became apparent that passers-by thought I was someone to be avoided. About 40 people passed by me, all making sure they did so on the other side of the road.

Three people did stop to talk to me, however, and only afterwards I realised that they had to go out of their way to turn into the street where I sat.

The first was a dog walker, who came and asked if I was all right. When I said ‘OK’, he asked a second time. I explained my circumstances and he and his dog continued on their way.

A little later an elderly woman saw me. She turned into the street, looked at my stick and orthotic shoes and asked if I’d fallen over. Did I need any help to get up? Did I need an ambulance? Again, I explained my mobility issues and she left.

Then a young woman with her child noticed me and asked: ‘Are you all right?’ I explained my reason for sitting on the pavement and she left, saying: ‘I hope the fishmonger turns up quickly.’

A few minutes later my legs started to go numb from sitting on the floor. I thought the fishmonger must be coming soon, so I raised myself up and stood, leaning on my walking stick. Another person came down the street and passed by on my side of the road.

How do we see people? Are we aware that in these days many people have had their circumstances changed and their coping mechanisms taken away? Support groups and activities are closed because of Covid-19 safety regulations. Those of us with disabilities are finding ordinary things such as shopping very difficult. A takeaway café is no help when you need a chair to sit on.

Sat on that pavement I felt invisible, like an untouchable. People passed by without giving me eye contact. It made me think of the story of the good Samaritan and how people passed by the injured man.

Jesus saw people’s needs. He acknowledged individuals and treated them with dignity and respect. He recognised Zacchaeus’s loneliness. He understood the woman at the well’s desire for things to be different.

We need to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, whether they be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The person experiencing homelessness, the person coping with unemployment, the isolated person who hasn’t felt a human being’s touch for weeks – all these people need someone to be a good neighbour to them.

John Gowans wrote these challenging words:


There are people living who would rather die.

They need you, they need me, they need Christ,

And their Christian neighbours simply pass them by!

They need you, they need me, they need Christ.

There are people sitting by a silent phone,

People cold and hungry, people left alone,

Suicides for reasons that remain unknown.

They need you, they need me, they need Christ.

(SASB 935)


Jesus said: ‘Here is my command. Love one another’ (John 15:17 New International Reader’s Version). We need to make visible the caring love of Jesus. As Salvationists in Covid days our outreach, mission and witness may have to be innovative, using bespoke methods, but it’s vital that we are there for people and that we don’t ignore those in need.





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