When I was an impressionable adolescent during the late 60s – a time when everyone seemed to be fighting for a cause – I wailed to my mother: “Mom, do you think I’ll ever have an opinion about anything?” All around me, people were protesting the Vietnam War, burning their bras, marching for civil rights and even, at our public high school, arguing about whether playing football was morally wrong.
My mother patted me on the arm and said, “Sure, honey, you’ll have strong feelings about something someday.”
I wasn’t so sure. As an elementary student, when asked to write an essay on our “pet peeves,” I had real difficulty finding anything that peeved me.
Now, of course, the tide has turned – and through no conscious effort on my part. There are plenty of things that peeve me – from roads that are glutted with traffic tie-ups to co-workers who eat tuna at the desk next to me to having spiders make uninvited visits to my home.
My strong feelings also extend to weightier matters. I’m particularly energized by topics related to religion, politics and sex … those topics people traditionally have been urged to avoid in polite company. But, really, what other subjects are as compelling?
My overarching beliefs center around two precepts I discovered in the Bible. First, when Jesus was asked what were the most important commandments, he said one of them was: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I must say I agree with Him.
My second belief comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. The phrase “Eat, drink and be merry” is repeated several times throughout the book – just in case you missed it the first time. And I don’t think the invitation to “drink” has anything to do with water!
Now many people might believe that these two beliefs are contradictory, but I think they’re interrelated. For example, I often practice loving my neighbors by inviting them over to “eat, drink and be merry!”
Seriously, I believe one of our main jobs on earth is to enjoy all the beauty and the bounty that surround us. Otherwise, it’s as if someone has given you a lovely gift and you never bothered to write a thank-you note.
More importantly, perhaps, I believe that the “love your neighbor” precept forms the very cornerstone of our society. Loving your neighbor ranges from helping to ensure that his or her basic needs are met to helping them come to terms with their spirituality.
As we enter more fully into the 21st century, it’s becoming clear to more and more people that we are all inter-connected, part of a single organism or life force. When one part of our collective body is suffering, it affects us all.
“Love your neighbor” is more than just a Sunday school saying then. It’s a precept that, if fully implemented, could eliminate injustice, poverty, even war.
As the Beatles sang: “All you need is love.” They were right.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.