Aerial view of a neighborhood with mature trees in a chicago suburban neighborhood in summer. Deefield, il. Usa.

There was a time when I thought of neighbors only as the folks next door or those who lived close by. Most of them looked and talked pretty much like me. I have come to have a different understanding of neighbor.

The transformation of my concept of neighbor began in 1966 when I moved to western New York to attend school. The enrollment of no more than 250-300 students included students from All over the United States and many foreign countries. Their backgrounds were as varied as their ethnicity. It was my first truly multi-cultural experience.

Multiculturalism word cloud concept. Vector illustration Stock Vector - 44625860

Then came marriage and family. After our first child was born in 1971 we started watching a new and different kind of community on Sesame Street. Each day on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood everyone was invited to “please, won’t you be my neighbor.” Both of these new television programs presented a world of diversity and inclusiveness that contributed significantly to the formation of our world view.

Fred tying shoes

The county in which I live has a population of slightly more than 900,000 of which 62% are black, |Latino, and Asian. Seventeen years ago my wife and moved into our suburban neighborhood of 85 homes which has a wonderful mix of lifestyles, ages, religions, and races. My neighborhood is very different from what I experienced when I was growing up.

I have been watching the World Cup for the past four weeks. 32 national teams have competed in this international football (soccer) tournament which is hosted this year by Russia. The final match is scheduled for this coming Sunday, July 15. My family has engaged in much conversation about the matches although we are California, Mexico, Japan, and two cities in Georgia. This sporting event has also provided a wonderful way to connect and have conversations with all sorts of people. Hearing the names and seeing the faces of the players and fans has broadened my understanding that we all have more in common than we are sometimes aware.

New Logo for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Brandia Central

My son and his family have lived in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Mexico. They have also traveled extensively in the United States and much of the world. In his travel blog (www.anepiceducation.com) he wrote recently about how watching the World Cup has made him a better parent and a better world citizen. In a match this past weekend my granddaughter cheered for Russia because she has a friend in Spain who is from Russia.

I have had the words of a song stuck in my head since I sang it with the congregation of the First United Methodist Church in Rockmart, Georgia a couple of weeks ago. The song, written by Thomas S. Colvin focuses on our neighbors as it recalls the words of Jesus, following a conversation with a lawyer. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27). The song is simple but profound.

Neighbors are rich and poor,
Neighbors are black and white,
Neighbors are near and far away.

Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with Your love, show us how to serve
The neighbors we have from You.

These are the ones we should serve,
These are the ones we should love;
All these are neighbors to us and You.

Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with Your love, show us how to serve
The neighbors we have from You.

God, help us to be good neighbors!

Jamie Jenkins