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A Better Solution
by Rubel Shelly
A city councilman in Erie, Pennsylvania, has identified an important issue. He thinks something should be done about it. His proposed remedy wont work.
Jim Casey thinks relationships with ones neighbors is important. On his view, television, computers, and other devices that tend to close us in our houses or apartments have made neighborliness obsolete for many people. Security, civility, and quality of life would be enhanced if people got to know each other.
So Casey put an idea before the Erie City Council to study whether it should require all new homes in that city to be built with front porches. We need to get out and meet our neighbors, he said. If porches can help us get back to that good quality of living, then good. We could wish it were that simple!
Thinking that porches will create better communities is akin to thinking laws could cure racism. True enough, some laws needed to be passed. Those laws established a minimal standard of what would henceforth be regarded as acceptable. But they didnt make a single bigot open-minded and tolerant. Neither will front porches create community and neighborliness. It takes much more.
The Gospels arent anti-Semitic, and the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan isnt to put Jews in a bad light. Let it be White and Black, Catholic and Protestant, American and Iraqi, Agnostic and Christian, Straight and Homosexual, Hip-Hop and Classical the basic problem in human relations isnt a lack of front porches but a lack of mutual respect.
According to Jesus, the way to love your neighbor is to take a risk, extend a hand, and do something positive in the life of a person outside your customary circle of friends. In your neighborhood, workplace, or church, you know who and where they are. This week is your chance to approach just one.