It was a Saturday night in the city. A chill in the air because it was February but not enough to keep people from being out and about. Maybe the city never really sleeps. I don’t know. We hustled against the chill, the sun already setting. Warmth waited behind the heavy wooden doors. My husband…
I make it no secret how much I love to read, and though I cannot guarantee that my tastes in books will align with yours, I generally try to review and recommend only books that are worth your time. You can be mostly assured that if a book makes it to the review space on my blog, then it’s been worth my time.
Even then, there is the rare book that rises above the worth-your-time category and rests firmly in the you-must-read category.
First, a couple of things you need to know:
- I received an advance copy of the book from the author and my opinions in this review were not influenced by that act.
- I went to grade school, middle school and high school with the author which means I am as excited for the release of his debut book as I would be my own. True story.
- Kelly is a psychologist with an eye for the divine in the world. His blog posts are some of my favorites. You might have even seen him on the Today show because one of his posts went viral.
Now, the book. What I’m about to say is rare:
You NEED to read this book.
About once a year, I read a book that I consider a must-read, and if I consider it a must-read, then I can’t stop talking about it or recommending it. Just recently, I recommended a book I read three years ago and can’t forget. Last year, I attended a writing conference for the first time so I could tell the author who was the keynote speaker how much one of his books changed me. If I consider a book must-read, I am practically evangelistic about it. (Annoyingly so, I know.)
If I could only recommend one book this year, it would be Loveable. And yeah, I understand that it’s only March. But what Kelly has to say here is not just important. It’s life-changing.
I have a lot of favorite lines in this book, so I won’t list them all here. But I do want you to get a sense for what the book is about and what it can do for your soul.
This was one of the first lines to speak to me:
From there, Kelly leads us through three acts of this play we call life: Worthiness, Belonging and Purpose. And he reminds us that this is not a linear, straightforward climb up a mountain. It’s more like circling the mountain on the way to the top. We will likely cycle through these three acts more than once in life.
It’s a beautiful journey. By first recognizing our worth and then reaching out to others, pursuing our passions (i.e. finding our purpose) becomes more meaningful because it is deeply rooted in a confident sense of who we are and have always been
Kelly speaks often of the Little One inside all of us, and I will admit that at first that seems awkward. But, when we examine our wounds and the needs we have, it’s not hard to accept that there’s a Little One who needs to know he or she is loved and accepted. (Fair warning: you might need to read with a box of tissues in one hand and the phone number of a good therapist in the other.)
To get the most out of this book, read with your heart and mind open to the possibility of a changed life. And while Kelly is a professing Christian, this book is accessible to those who might not share that belief.
Have I convinced you? If not, then hop on over to Ann Voskamp’s blog and read an excerpt from the book. Then decide. I hope you will say yes for you.
P.S. In case you’re curious, the other books I almost always recommend as must-reads are Outlaw by Ted Dekker and Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart. Both fiction.
It was my usual Tuesday in the city except nothing about the city is ever “usual.” Take, for example, the truck circling the block advertising Swedish socks. Multi-colored socks dangled from a wire in the back window of the box truck. At first, we had mistaken it for a balloon truck because of all the bright colors. But no. It was socks. I am still trying to figure out why someone would sell socks from a truck in the middle of the city and what is so special about these socks. Maybe next time I’ll ask.
But my usual Tuesday mission was followed by an unusual path to a local restaurant. I had won a gift card to the restaurant during our city’s restaurant week, and I needed to pick it up. Lunch dates are good motivation for new adventures. Generally, I stick pretty close to my familiar downtown spots: market, library, the parking garage, the church where our refugee classes meet. But the restaurant was just a short walk north, so I hoofed it.
When I slowed down for a woman helping a man take careful steps on the sidewalk, a toothless man sitting on a step nearby asked me if I had any change. I generally carry little to no cash on me, so I stopped, looked him in the eyes and told him I was sorry but I didn’t.
“Have a good day,” I said.
“Yeah, right,” he replied. It wasn’t sarcastic I don’t think.
As I made my way to the restaurant, I thought that I probably had a few cents of change in my purse and I would try to dig them out. I finished my errand at the restaurant, which is a bit fancy and now I’m nervous about eating there, and I headed back the way I came and fished out all the change I could find.
It amounted to 39 cents. But it was something.
When I passed the man again, I leaned over and told him I’d found some change after all. I introduced myself and asked his name.
“Ray,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you, Lisa.”
In our city adventures, I’ve met a few of the regulars who ask for money and I look for them time and again. (I hesitate to call them homeless because I don’t know for sure, and even though our city is cracking down on panhandling, I refuse to turn away when someone asks for something I can give them.) Now that winter is over, I keep my eyes out for Jonathan and Woody, but I haven’t seen them in a while. I worry that winter was not kind to them.
I’d never met Ray before today.
But Ray is my neighbor.
I rode the bus in to the city today. The first time I did this, I was the only one on the bus. The last couple of times, there have been others. Today was the fullest I’d seen it. There were six of us. Three got off at the community college. Another woman and I get off at the same stop. I’d seen her once before. I should ask her name. She, too, is my neighbor.
I ordered a breakfast burrito from the Puerto Rican stand at market. The Square system wasn’t working properly so it took us several tries before I could pay. As I waited for my burrito, I ordered a coffee from my usual spot. They, too, were having trouble with Square and told me the coffee was on them today. I tracked down my husband and asked him for some cash and tucked $2 in their tip cup. I appreciate the gesture of free coffee but they deserve to be paid for their work.
I don’t know the names of anyone who pours my coffee or of the woman who makes my breakfast sandwich. I still have a lot of work to do in this whole neighboring business. But they too are my neighbors.
I found an open seat–a rarity on market days–at a table near the windows. I took up just the room I needed knowing that someone I didn’t know was going to ask to sit with me. This is the way of market. You don’t get to hog the table all to yourself. If there are open seats, you ask to sit there. It is almost cafeteria-style except I like to think of it as–you guessed it–neighborly.
I’d been there a minute when a man asked to sit at the table. Another joined him. Both of them pulled out newspapers. I complimented them on practicing a dying art, that of reading newspapers.
“There’s nothing in there,” the man grumbled. “75 cents and nothing but news we don’t want to hear.” I smiled, remembering the same complaints of the hometown newspapers I worked for in Illinois. Some things never change. He went on to talk about one of the articles about a fight that happened at a restaurant in the city. No one was getting charged in the incident. He blamed the race of the people involved. Then he moved on to talk about sports. It’s college basketball tournament season, if you didn’t know. I asked if he had a favorite team.
“Notre Dame,” he quickly replied. He told me about how his dad rooted for Notre Dame and all the other teams he and his dad followed through the years. I told him we were die-hard Chicago fans. I asked his name.
I told him mine. He told me he’d lived in the city for 30 years and things were changing, not always for the better. He lamented the lack of affordable housing.
“A one-bedroom apartment is $700! Who can afford that?”
I nodded. As I finished my sandwich, I wished him a great day, then I walked over to the church where our refugee classes meet. It had been three weeks since the last time I’d been there. Certain travel restrictions that are enacted and blocked and enacted and blocked have made the service of refugee resettlement a bit more chaotic and unpredictable than usual. So, our classes no longer meet weekly but for a two-week block once every month.
I had missed the international interaction. We had a full class of Cubans and Haitians, and I said out loud in tentative French that “I speak French a little bit.” It is the next courageous step for me, practicing my limited French in front of real-life people who in this case speak Creole but understand the French mostly. There were children and I often find myself their entertainer because the parents are trying hard to listen and understand and the class is long for little ones. We took a short break and as we reconvened, we realized one of the kids had wandered off. It’s a big church so we spread out. I found the little guy down a hallway on the same floor as our class. He was quick and sneaky, as only children are and we were all relieved to have found him.
One could argue that it isn’t our responsibility to keep watch over the children but I believe more and more what other bloggers have written: There is no such thing as someone else’s child. No such thing as other people’s children.
I am a mother who has entrusted her children to other caring adults who treat them as their own. These Haitian moms deserve nothing less. They, too, are my neighbors.
Jesus told a story about neighbors in that often-quoted story about the Good Samaritan and in it, he expanded the definition. There’s a whole history between the main characters of that story. In short, the Samaritan had no reason to be kind to the man who had been beaten and robbed because their people were basically mortal enemies. (I’m sure we can’t relate.) But Jesus gives the story a twist. It’s not the suffering man’s own people who help him. It’s the one who is supposed to be his enemy. That guy–he’s the neighbor, Jesus says.
And I’m starting to ask myself the question: Who isn’t my neighbor?
The woman who lives next door and erects a pro-Trump display. She’s my neighbor.
The people at church who express different beliefs about politics than I do. They’re my neighbors.
Bob, the guy who makes racial comments and can’t afford rent in the city, he’s my neighbor.
So is Ray the guy asking me for spare change. And the Haitian mom trying to concentrate on a class in an unfamiliar language. And the lady on the bus who gets off at the same stop. And the bus driver. And the barista. And …
I remember Mr. Rogers asking the people on the other side of the screen if they would be his neighbors. He couldn’t see us, but he knew we were there. We’d never meet him in person or live next door. But he invited us into his life.
Wherever life takes us in the course of a day, we’ve got a chance to be neighborly. And might I suggest that it could be the most important job we do in these times?
And might I also suggest that being a neighbor is easier than it sounds?
Today I gave what I had: some spare change, my name, a little bit of time. None of those things is dramatic or eventful, and even now, I am exhausted from the effort of giving these things away. You don’t have to do a lot or everything to be someone’s neighbor.
Start by giving what you have, even if it’s “just” your name.