On June 7, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup began. Since my son, Thomas, is a soccer player and has enjoyed watching some professional soccer this past year, I asked him if he wanted to watch with me. He said he wasn’t interested. I was surprised and asked him, “Why? Because they are women?” He said, “No! I just don’t know who the players are, and I don’t know which team to root for.” I told him that I didn’t know much about them either, but that I was going to watch it anyway. He stayed in the room and played some video games while I watched. Before too long, he was invested in the game and cheering for specific players. We sat in awe of Wendie Renard from France, who we learned is 6’2” and the tallest player in the Women’s World Cup this year, as she scored two goals with her head!
When I came home from Annual Conference this Monday evening, I found him very interested in a game and cheering for Canada. He has been watching as many games as he can and plans to continue through the end of the tournament. He has favorite players and teams and can recite their stats. He has spent time learning about them and watching them and is now invested in them. He is excited to follow their progress and to keep learning more about the player.
I’ve been thinking about how this story (shared with Thomas’s permission!) is a modern parable about how we relate to our neighbors. It is much easier to ignore people if we don’t know them. It is easy to talk about baby boomers or millennials or immigrants or LGBTQ+ persons from a distance. What if we took the time to get to know them, as our neighbors? What if we listened to their stories? Might we be less likely to dismiss their lives as “uninteresting” if we took the time to learn about their histories and their dreams?
Just as Thomas has spent time learning about the players on the Women’s World Cup teams, I challenge us all to learn the names and the “stats” of those in our community. As we focus on “neighboring” this summer, let’s take the time to learn about and from our neighbors. Let’s become a people who are invested in those around us and who root for them.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Galatians 5:14