The second most important commandment is: Love your neighbor as yourself. Do not forget.
This morning, one of the channels was showing a movie called “The Impossible.” The first time I saw it, I was very moved. It is about the situation of an American family who, after going on Christmas vacation to Thailand in 2004, were victims of a Tsunami that shook that part of the world.
Whenever I see it, it generates the same emotions in me: sadness, anguish, compassion, joy. I pass it from one to the other as if it were some kind of roller coaster. But if there is something that strikes me about this film, it is not the harshness of the scenes, but the teaching.
The mother, who was able to rescue the oldest of her children, but still does not know the whereabouts of the two youngest and her husband, asks her son to do something for the people who are in that hospital. She is very hurt, but tells him that there are people for whom the boy can do something.
The boy then begins to run around the hospital helping several people find their relatives. He worries and fears for his mother and his missing family; but it still helps people who are within reach.
For me, this speaks of love of neighbor and sacrifice. To put those in need above all our sorrows and pain. In reality this is loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
The teachings of life
From a young age they teach us the commandments of God’s law. Everything is so very theoretical and so impractical that many people sometimes reach old age without really knowing anything.
The truth is that many of us reach adulthood living almost in automatic mode. We experience emotions and feelings that lead many of us to be good people, or so we think. However, sometimes we do not understand all the good and evil that a single one of us can commit against another person without realizing it.
Eventually, things happen that make us “hard” learn to be able to do for others, things that we would only do for ourselves.
It is difficult to do so because almost by nature many seek only their own well-being. The valuable thing happens when we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others and their needs, like in the movie.
That is precisely loving your neighbor as yourself.
I invite you to ask yourself some questions:
What do you want for yourself?
What you want for yourself, do you want for others?
These 2 questions are key since we never want anything bad to happen to us. We want to be successful, not to go hungry, to have a roof for ourselves and our family. We long for health, love, prosperity and happiness. So why is it sometimes so hard to help someone in need? Even why is it so easy to hate or envy someone instead of wishing them well?
This happens when we say that we love others, but in reality we do not know how to do it.
Loving your neighbor implies feeling happy about your achievements, giving a hand to those who need it, freeing yourself from envy, criticism and evil. But to do so we must have a lot of willpower and fight our own demons.
The fight is tough, but not impossible to win
It starts every morning; think about how that friend who got divorced and was going through a terrible depression will be. Has her life improved? What can you do to help her even a little?
You are fine, you have your family and health, he is not, and maybe you can listen to his problems so that he can vent. Those little steps put you in the place of the other and lead you to love him in ways you could not imagine.
So with every person who crosses your path. That needy person who seems to be hungry, that homeless person who does not have a coat to cover himself from the cold, anyone in the world, will welcome a little appreciation.
Love and mercy begin at home
For 7 years we were part of a religious congregation whose principles are very valuable. The sad thing is that apparently, the longer people have been members, the less they have learned from what was taught. That was one of the many reasons why we decided never to return.
One Sunday morning there was a knock on the door of our house. When he opened the surprise it was capital, he was the youngest son of some members who had been attending that congregation for a matter of 30 years.
He was dirty with mud, totally destitute and hungry. He sat on the edge of the door and asked us for something to eat. My mother served him some breakfast and asked him the reason for his condition. We knew he was struggling with an addiction, but what he told us broke our hearts.
Crying, he told us that one day his father -an old man, almost venerated as a saint in that congregation- had thrown him out of the house, and no matter how much his mother begged him, he did not change his mind.
The cruel reality of becoming aware of our faults
One afternoon that same week, a church member came to visit us; one of them was the sister-in-law of the indigent young man. They intended for us to return to church, but what we had seen on Sunday had been confirmation that we did not want to be in a place where “it is preached, but not practiced.”
I remember they told us about the commandments and what we were violating by not returning. It was then that my mother, tired of so much persistence, told that young man’s relative:
“On Sunday Pablo (fictitious name) was here in a complete state of destitution. Tell me one thing sister: What commandment are you and your family breaking? You insist that we return and say that we are doomed; but they do not realize what you are failing. And don’t forget, love begins at home.
The woman was silent, and after saying a few more things, she left, never to return.
She was not directly guilty of his situation. Despite that, she was able to do something to prevent him from falling even lower than he was, but they chose to ignore and pass by; that is not done, and less with a relative.
Learning to love others begins from a very young age and with the example of parents. That may not make anyone a millionaire, but the satisfaction left by knowing that you have done well is priceless. That is true love of neighbor and the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ.