How to be a Neighbor in a Hurting World

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Encouragement, Trust


On a sunny Thursday, I board a train near my house and get off in Richmond. A friend sitting outside the tube station greets me with a smile on her face. “Are your feet going to be okay walking in those shoes,” Elaine asks before standing up.

I am wearing black flats. She doesn’t know it but I spent 20 minutes before leaving my house debating about which shoes to wear. It turns out I have all the wrong shoes for living in an urban city where walking is the primary method of travel to places.

“I will be fine,” I tell her while gulping doubt down my throat.

We amble past charming storefronts, a panoramic view of the Thames, down a grassy footpath through a pasture of cows, all the while talking about the ways God is meeting us individually. “You are my last yes,” I tell her and she laughs. I’ve had to say some hard no’s to being present with people lately in order to meet deadlines.

A narrow passageway between two ancient stone walls opens to a quiet, hidden paradise. Of shabby chic tables and chairs, buxom flowers, and pergola’s hanging with vines. People are chatting over bowls of soup and greens piled on plates.

It’s as if I walked through a closet into a secret garden, a place my friend instinctively knew would speak my love language. But we barely know each other, except that we do.





Elaine found me through my writing and reached out shortly after I moved to London. We met for tea and then she began praying for me without prompting.

This little excursion is only the second time we’ve been together outside of being in crowded rooms for events.

Prayer, I’ve learned, unites people in ways that transcend common definitions for friendship.

The love of God, mercy of God and the provision of God are singular, they are actions of God toward us. But friendship with God is not something He does, it is about being together.

Jesus calls you friend for no other reason than because you are the point of his affection; not your job, affiliations, parenting skills, political leanings or your spiritual convictions. In true friendship, all of those variables are beside the point when you meet.

Choosing to trust in the friendship of Jesus makes us an active and expectant participant in the midst of uncertainty and challenging situations, a posture that isn’t common or novel but a peculiar way of life bringing ultimate fulfillment.

Jesus says, Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

In the past, when people have asked me to meet with them for lunch, I held my breath a little. I knew they wanted something from me — advise, counsel, prayer, a safe place to vent — but ulterior motive remained a mystery until our plates held crumpled napkins. But since I’ve been in London, that has rarely been the case.

Londoners are teaching me about what it means to be a neighbor.


In the face of  injustice to innocent people we read about in the headlines, our conscience grapples with how to respond and the story of the good Samaritan teaches us. (Luke 10:25-37)

God says the way to eternal life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

And just like the rich lawyer seeking justification, we are often asking the wrong question in scenarios that have dire consequences for nations. We are asking, Who is my neighbor? when God is asking  How are you being neighborly?

God is calling us to be aware, not to meet every need.

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. – GK Chesterton

In our instant, drive through, Google it world, we can share on social media to soothe our conscience and go on living in an insular world. But God is asking, What will you do about it? How will you be a neighbor to the man lying on the side of the road? What will you do about the woman God has laid on your heart? Will you trust in our friendship?


On our way back to the train station, Elaine and I are coaxed inside a shoe store by a sale sign in the window. Seconds after we begin turning shoes over to look at price tags she tells me she wants to buy me a decent pair of walking shoes.

She doesn’t know finding the right shoes is something I’ve been praying about for weeks but it turns out, she has feet empathy and good shoes are a high value for her.


If you are wondering how to respond to racism, injustice, and the needs of those around you remember that friendship with Jesus doesn’t require your money, political affiliations, degrees, title or aspirations. He longs for your awareness and empathy.

Put yourself in someone’s shoes, offer a prayer, extend an invitation, come together and trust Him to lead you.

The journey might hurt a little but the beauty discovered will be worth it.


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  1. Kris Camealy

    Shelly, this leaves me weeping this morning. Wow. Just beautiful. And so needed. I love this so much.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for always being here for me Kris. I’m glad this story touched something within you. xx

  2. Elizabeth Stewart

    This one leaves me teary. How beautiful godly friendship is.

    • Shelly Miller

      I agree Elizabeth, friendships that God orchestrates are one of life’s more precious gifts.

  3. Cathy

    I love this! The story and surrounding are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Cathy. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Mary Gemmill

    Loved this…love the God-friendships, love that this friend instinctively knew where to take you for it to bless you the most…love the answer to prayers for shoes…truly, God is good! Trusting Him for a divine appointment for us in Canada. xx

    • Jillie

      Canada you say??? Me too! Allow me to be neighbourly, and to pray for the divine appointment you’re seeking.
      Blessings, jillie

      • Mary Gemmill

        YES please and thank you Jillie!

    • Shelly Miller

      God continually blows me away with all the intimate details that make my heart sing. Praying for the same Mary, hope he comes through for us!

  5. Natalie

    What a lovely story, one that makes me think differently about life. These words were instructive and encouraging to me, “We are asking, Who is my neighbor? when God is asking How are you being neighborly?” And what a way for God to meet that shoe need!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad to know my tag line here is relevant Natalie. *wink* Glad the story made you think differently. xx

  6. Jillie

    CHEERIO SHELLY!!! It’s been a LONG while, I know, but I’m still reading, still being spellbound by your gorgeous photos! Like the ones in this post!!! WOW! I “joined you” right there. It reminds me of a place here in SW Ontario, called ‘The Frog Tea Room’, set in a wooded conservation area, greenery on all sides; a place where tiny chipmunks run free, snatching up warm cookie & muffin crumbles from the cobblestone floor. SO charming.
    What you’ve written today speaks volumes to me. Especially in light of this tumultuous time down in the States, not to mention Britain! So many changes for so many. Getting purposefully quiet, offering up prayers for all those in deep need right now, “coming together” rather than giving the enemy further opportunity to divide.
    Also, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that your new friend offered to buy you better walking-about shoes. Sometimes I find myself craving a place where walking is the main mode of transportation–not like here, where people drive simply everywhere, circling a block until a parking space opens right in front of the store they wish to go to. 🙂
    You don’t know this, dear Shelly, but you have just confirmed an answer to a dilemma I am facing this Saturday. What should be a simple little memorial service for a cousin I lost recently, has turned into a family broohaw. Some attending hold to the belief that we ALL enter heaven, no matter what, when we die. Others of us believe there must be a “turning” point, a confession & repentance of all known sin, and an invitation for Christ to enter into one’s life, therefore resulting in a born-again, changed life. Both sides are squabbling over this, and one in particular does not approve of the Minister chosen for the little service. This is a different sort of “service”–to be held on a cousin’s hobby farm, a beautiful place, where a Red Maple tree has been planted and a small granite stone inscribed. Flowers planted, too, in preparation. A picnic to follow, as she loved a good picnic. There, Cousin’s ashes will be scattered. Because of the informal setting there could be things said, eyes rolled, and the like. This. is. my. family. And I sit smack-dab in the middle of it all.
    I’ve been praying His Spirit would hover over all that takes place; that differences will be put aside for the sake of those who have no known faith, like my now-deceased cousin’s two grown children. Praying for mutual respect toward all present.
    The verse you quoted of the Greatest Command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…….and your neighbour as yourself”, is THE VERY VERSE that came to me this morning as I spoke with the cousin who is (apprehensively) hosting come Saturday. It is the verse that sums-up our mandate as Christians. Despite ANY differences we encounter in this life, in this our world, we cannot go wrong if we seek to build bridges of love, respect, and honour. Love not only covers a multitude of sins, but Love Never Fails. Thank you for the affirmation in my spirit, and the added focus of my prayers for this little memorial service.
    I love you Shelly and have missed writing to you. Blessings way over there from way over here.

    • Jillie

      Sorry Shelly. I meant “CONfirmation” in my spirit, not “affirmation.” It struck me before bedtime last night that I’d used the wrong word, and boy, did I feel silly. 🙂

      • Shelly Miller

        No worries, I knew what you meant. xx

    • Shelly Miller

      Jillie, it’s such a gift to see you here in the comment box. I’ve missed you! I’m praying with you for peace, for God’s palpable presence to be with you, for wisdom to know when to speak and when to listen and knowing how to be a neighbor in this situation. Sometimes relatives offer sand paper opportunities to put our faith into action and ponder what we really believe, don’t they? I’m sure you will be a blessing and the time together, a special remembrance honoring someone you all loved. May God be with you in a sweet way dear Jillie. All my love. xoxo

  7. Nancy Ruegg

    ‘Have been on vacation and am catching up on numerous tasks, including responding to my blogging friends. That’s why I’m commenting ten days after this post. But comment I must! Just this morning, Steve and I attended a poverty awareness seminar held at our church. A few of my preconceived notions were proven wrong, and my eyes were opened to new possibilities for dealing with injustice (children who have no choice and no voice, for example), and needs of those in dire straits. The challenge you presented at the end of your post is EXACTLY where I am right now. I must “put myself in someone’s shoes, offer a prayer, extend an invitation, come together and trust God to lead me.” Opportunities are presenting themselves; I believe God is leading us to respond. Your post, Shelly, is affirmation!

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