"But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” - Ruth 1:16 NIV
Whenever we encounter a hurricane in our area, if you are like me, you reflect on hurricanes we have endured in the past. My reflections always go back to the first hurricane our family encountered in Florida – Hurricane Charley in 2004. We were living in Winter Park at that time. Charley swept through the Orlando area in less than an hour. But caused tremendous damage to an area that prided itself on its majestic oak trees. The next day, I walked around the area and was floored. These majestic oak trees were strewn across the area haphazardly like toothpicks. Some were blocking streets; some were lying on tops of houses, and some had crushed cars parked on the street.
However, there was something else that astounded me the next day. That was the sound of chain saws (gas-powered, there was no power in the area.) I saw neighbors helping neighbors to clear limbs and trees off their homes and cars. Almost immediately. It was a bright ray of hope amidst a ravaged community. It brought neighbors together.
But it seemed like it was only a fleeting time of togetherness. As one columnist in the Orlando Sentinel wrote, “Hurricane Charley is over. It’s time to go back to ignoring your neighbors.” Unfortunately, there was a lot of truth in that. That was the customary way of living, disregard your neighbors.
In the Book of Ruth, we read about two daughters-in-law of Naomi - Ruth and Orpah. Naomi was already widowed. But then her two sons, the husbands of Ruth and Orpah, died as well. Leaving Naomi alone. It was customary that widows would return to their own family. Which is what Orpha did. We may think that this was cruel, but that was the custom. As per the norm of the time, Ruth should have done so as well. But she did not want to leave Naomi alone. She broke the conventions of the day by staying with Naomi, “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.”
We all are surrounded by people whom we normally would not connect, in our work environment, in our neighborhood, at church. Sometimes not for any other reason than just how things are. Let us follow Jesus’ example and break through the conventions of the times and be the neighbor that he desires us to be. Then we will be able to see them as God sees them; one of his creations, one whom he loves and finds worthy of his grace and mercy.