Today is Earth Day which is all well and good, but what about taking care of other people too? If you’re stumped for just how to go about that, try a few things from this list. Some of them are challenging.
50 Ways to Love Your Neighbor
by Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
With the National Day of Prayer coming up (May 7), a lot of folks around the country are organizing prayer services in church sanctuaries and town halls. We’re all for getting together to say prayers, but we’re also challenged by the ways scripture stirs us to become the answer to our prayers. So we decided to start a little campaign. Here are fifty ways — some little, some bigger — that we can start to be the church we pray for. If you can join us in committing to do at least one of these things between now and May 7, consider yourself a member of the movement and share the list with your friends. Maybe we’re a little late for a national organizing committee, but then again, maybe we don’t need one. May the Spirit spread its truth like kudzu, and may God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
1. Fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.
2. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.
3. Ask your pastor if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit.
4. Join an open AA meeting and befriend someone there.
5. Adopt a child.
6. Mow your neighbor’s grass.
7. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school. (Try to get to know the kid’s family.)
8. Grow your own tomatoes and share them.
9. Ask a small group in your community to meet regularly for intercessory prayer.
10. Build a wheel chair ramp for someone who is homebound.
11. Read the newspaper to someone at your local nursing home.
12. Plant a tree.
13. Look up the closest registered sex offender in your neighborhood and try to befriend him.
14. Throw a birthday party for a prostitute.
15. When you pay your water bill, pay your neighbor’s too (they’ll let you . . . really).
16. Invest money in a micro-lending bank.
17. Ask the next person who asks you to spare some change to join you for dinner.
18. Leave a random tip for someone who’s cleaning the streets or a public restroom.
19. Write one CEO a month this year. Affirm or critique the ethics of their company (you may need to do a little research first).
20. Start tithing (giving 10%) of all your income directly to the poor.
21. Connect with a group of migrant workers or farmers who grow your food and visit their farm. Maybe even pick some veggies with them. Ask what they get paid.
22. Give your winter coat away to someone who is colder than you and go to a thrift store to get a new one.
23. Write only paper letters (by hand) for a month. Try writing someone who needs encouragement or who you should say “I’m sorry” to.
24. Go TV free for a year. Or turn your TV into a pot where flowers grow.
25. Laugh at advertisements, especially ones that teach you that you can buy happiness.
26. Organize a prayer vigil for peace outside a weapons manufacturer such as Lockheed Martin. Read the Sermon on the Mount out loud. For extra credit, do it every week for a year.
27. Go down a line of parked cars and pay for the meters that are expired. Leave a little note of niceness.
28. Write to one social justice organizer or leader each month just to encourage them.
29. Go through a local thrift store and drop $1 bills in random pockets of the clothing being sold.
30. Experiment with creation-care by going fuel free for a week — ride a bike, carpool, or walk.
31. Try only reading books written by females or people of color for a year.
32. Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don´t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read the Bible together, or play board games.
33. Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, pray for those folks who helped make it possible for you to eat it.
34. Create a Jubilee fund in your congregation, matching dollar for dollar every dollar you spend internally with a dollar externally. If you have a building fund, create a fund to match it to give away and by mosquito nets or dig wells for folks dying in poverty.
35. Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.
36. Give your car away to a stranger.
37. Convert your car to run off waste vegetable oil.
38. Try recycling your water from the washer or sink to flush your toilet. Remember the 1.2 billion folks who don´t have clean water.
39. Wash your clothes by hand, or dry them by hanging to remember those without electricity or running water. Remember the 1.6 billion people who do not have electricity.
40. Buy only used clothes for a year.
41. Cover up all brand names, or at least the ones that do not reflect the upside-down economics of God’s Kingdom. Commit to only being branded by the cross.
42. Learn to sew or start making your own clothes to remember the invisible faces behind what we wear. Take your kids to pick cotton so they can see what that is like (and then read James).
43. Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week to remember those who do that for most of their life (take a multivitamin). Remember the 30,000 people who die each day of poverty and malnutrition.
44. Begin creating a scholarship fund so that for every one of your own children you send to college you can create a scholarship for an at-risk youth. Get to know their family and learn from each other.
45. Visit a worship service where you will be a minority. Invite someone to dinner at your house or have dinner with someone there if they invite you.
46. Help your church congregation create a Peacemaker Scholarship and give it away to a young person trying to avoid the economic draft, who would like to go to college but sees no other way than the military.
47. Eat with someone who does not look like you. Learn from them.
48. Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask them to pray for you.
49. Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back and eat or sleep in the shelter and allow yourself to be served.
50. Join a Yokefellows ministry at a prison close to you. Remember that Jesus said he would meet you there (Matt. 25).
[God’s Politics weblog, 14 Apr 2009]