He’s a solid foot taller than me, if not more. His hands are huge. His expression mellow, if not a little suspicious.
That is, if you don’t know him.
I saw Frank while ministering in a prison, and we became fast friends. I watched Frank gently pray for his fellow inmates. He gravitated toward me, the short, white guy who grew up in the suburbs, often joining my prayer group at the end of each meeting.
When I prepared to move out of the area and the prison was slated to close, I should have been praying for Frank since he didn’t know where he’d end up, but he offered to pray for me first.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that my years of prison ministry didn’t correct all of my mistakes and misconceptions about people.
But that season of service taught me that simply getting to know someone is the fastest and most reliable way to kill the suspicions you may harbor of your neighbors. In fact, you may even grow quite fond of people who may have been the targets of your suspicion.
These days we serve meals at a community center a few blocks away from us. I’m still looking for more ways to get involved in my community, but this meal time has dramatically changed the way I interact with my neighbors.
When I would have averted my eyes at the sight of a man in beat up clothes and a scowl on his face, I’ll stop and say hi. He may keep walking. Sometimes we talk about the weather.
So much of the fear I’ve held onto over the years has been directed at people who were generally no threat to me.
That’s a horrible way to live.
Most importantly, it’s a horrible way to view other people.
Did I think they wanted to be perceived as threats?
I can’t speak to the racial injustices in our nation’s nation’s legal system with any kind of authority. I can’t speak to our terrible gun laws that prevent reasonable background checks from keeping guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous citizens.
I can only speak of learning about my neighbors and getting to know them a little and how that has moved me away from fear and suspicion.
If we start roving our neighborhoods with meals in our hands rather than guns, we’ll make the world a safer place not because we’ve neutralized a threat that’s out there. The greatest threat we need to neutralize is in our own hearts.
There are many battles that must be fought to give justice to all, but we can start today by treating our neighbors as we would want to be treated.
That’s the least we should expect from followers of a Savior who refused to stand his ground but kneeled down and served.