“Love thy neighbor as thyself: Do not to others what thou would not wish be done to thyself: Forgive injuries. Forgive thy enemy, be reconciled to him, give him assistance, invoke God in his behalf.” – Confucius
These are powerful words from a famous teacher and philosopher that are often lost in our world. We live in a society in which many people solely focus on “I”, “me”, and “we” in regards to how they live. A society in which our fellow man, our neighbor, struggles to survive each and every day. Thankfully, there are organizations within our communities that reach out to those in need and provide needed support when all else fails. Neighborlink Fort Wayne is an organization in our community that truly loves thy neighbor. It invites Fort Wayne residents and organizations to seek free assistance while providing opportunities for the community to volunteer on projects that provide the free assistance. Neighborlink’s mission is practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love. It is a mission that we would witness firsthand.
We arrived at the site of our volunteer experience on Saturday morning and we were surprised with what we saw. The home was in much better shape than we expected and it was located in a nice neighborhood. It made me realize that my mind is full of filters that create perceptions. These perceptions of the home, the client, and our day were very wrong. These filters exist in all of us and we must work to eliminate them. We were greeted by the Executive Director of Neighborlink Andrew Hoffman. Andrew was very gracious to help us by acting as coach and selecting the project. We spent the first few minutes of the morning talking about Neighborlink Fort Wayne and what they do. It was evident that Andrew was very passionate about serving the people of our community. His words about the organization were inspiring and informational and they gave us a great perspective of what was to come. We then had the opportunity to meet Joyce, the homeowner we were helping on this hot, summer morning. Joyce is an elderly woman who suffers from arthritis and other health concerns. Unfortunately, these health concerns limit her ability to do things around her home. That is the reason we were there.
We spent the morning working in the yard. Erica and the girls pulled weeds and washed windows. Andrew was on the roof trimming trees. I volunteered to mow the lawn utilizing Joyce’s riding lawnmower. It was first time that I had been on a rider since I was about 11 years old. As simple as it seems, it was a learning experience for me. I sat on the mower with my long legs in my face as I whipped around the yard. I was terrible at maneuvering the mower at first, but I eventually figured it out and completed the task. We finished the work at Joyce’s house in just a couple of hours. It was not difficult work, but the type of work one hates to do. We do not like pulling weeds at our own house, let alone somewhere else. This situation was different. We knew that the work we had done was important to Joyce because there is no other way for it to get done. We were happy to help out on this project.
As we finished up, Andrew asked Joyce if we could pray for her. She told us that “without prayer, I do not know where I would be.” She asked us to pray for her health and her finances. It was obvious at this time that Joyce was really struggling. We bowed our heads and shared a prayer together. It was an emotional experience. Joyce was brought to tears as we finished the prayer and prepared to leave. She was very thankful and appreciative of our help. It was clear just how much our small amount of time meant to her. She could not say thank you enough. It was a pleasure meeting and assisting Joyce during this experience.
Our experience demonstrated the impact that Neighborlink Fort Wayne has on individuals. We were just a few of the hundreds of volunteers working on this particular day. Many people in our community have been positively affected as Neighborlink has now completed 352 projects in 2011. We had a great experience working with Neighborlink Fort Wayne and we urge others to get involved. It is a great organization that provides unbelievable support to the community. You can learn about them and the projects available in the Fort Wayne area by visiting the website at http://www.nlfw.org. We want to thank Andrew Hoffman for helping us make this volunteer experience possible. You will not meet another individual who is as passionate about serving God and his community as Andrew. He and his wife are very active in their neighborhood and their community. He leads the efforts of Neighborlink Fort Wayne by personally volunteering in 25 to 30 projects per year. If that is not enough, he is participating in a bike ride across country to support relief efforts in the Congo. Andrew Hoffman inspires others to serve. He embodies the mission of Neighborlink Fort Wayne in his life. That is why the organization is special in the impact it makes in our community.
If you are not in the Fort Wayne area, we ask that you research ways to get involved in your community helping others. You do not have to invest a lot of time to make a difference. There are many people who need help and some assistance. We ask that you reach out to your neighbor. In order to do so, you must know your neighbor. Do YOU know your neighbor?