We'd lived in our New England home for three years, and yet we knew very few of our neighbors. Four-legged creatures and two-legged ones under the age of 16 we knew intimately. But when it came to the adults, forget it.
My husband and I decided that last Christmas was the time to rectify the situation. Instead of having a Christmas party for all of our "known" friends, we decided to invite those we'd never met. So one cold day last December, I placed invitations in all the mailboxes around our neighborhood.
I have to admit that I was quite nervous about this undertaking. First, there were a couple of families whose children were not getting along well, and were told by their parents not to come over to our house to play at the same time. Would either family even come? What would happen if they did?
Then, we purposely did not ask for an RSVP because we didn't want anyone to feel pressured about coming. We wanted everyone to come and go as they pleased. But how would I know how much food to prepare? Would we have enough room in our little split-level?
That's when I decided to take a closer look at our motive for hosting the party. The idea had been sparked by our love for our neighborhood and community. I have always associated God with Love. Not only because this is a name for Him, but also because I can imagine no better word to represent the warmth, tenderness, strength, and comfort I feel when I think of our Father-Mother, God.
So I decided to turn the party completely over to God. Instead of seeing this gathering as a social event, I saw it as an expression of Love a power that dispels and destroys the walls of unfamiliarity, prejudice, and fear.
With Love hosting the party, all I had to do was attend. I knew that Love would supply its own guests, bring together its ideas, and in turn, bless each guest with a good time.
As far as supplying enough food and drink was concerned, I turned this over to Love as well. I reasoned that Love would supply the bread of comfort, peace, camaraderie, and goodwill. Such food is unlimited and always fills the needs of the partaker.
I saw Love as supplying the decorations with the beauty of Soul, and Love supplying the entertainment, the right conversation and activity.
I decided the theme for the party would be Jesus' command, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31). And I worked to keep that uppermost in my thought as I walked our dogs around the neighborhood each day.
I don't think I've ever been so calm before a big party. Everything was done ahead of schedule, without rush or worry.
And the neighbors came, many meeting one another for the first time. It was a wonderful day. As it wound down, the consensus was that we needed to do this more often. One guest offered to have a neighborhood cookout at his house this summer.
As I walk the dogs around our street these days, the community feels so much warmer and friendlier.
I hope that this feeling of community we're developing can in some small way contribute to a world hungering for peace. Those of us who long for warring countries to lay aside their differences can help by doing just that in our own backyards.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
Speaks kindly when we meet and part.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)