Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan in reply to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” 

They were discussing the commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the guy talking to Jesus wanted to be ethically precise. Are my neighbors those living on either side of my home; the people on my block; those in my church, my state, my political party, my nation? He wanted to be precise in order to know at what point he had done his duty, so he could go to sleep at night feeling justified.

In 1971, even during our involvement in the Vietnam War, the consensus in this country seemed to be that the world was our neighbor. Coca Cola sold millions of bottles of soda with their advertising jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

I’d like to build a world a home

and furnish it with love.

I’d like to hold it in my arms,

and keep it company

Then in 1985 a super group which included Michael Jackson,Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson raised millions of dollars to feed starving kids in Africa by singing,

We all are a part of God’s great big family

And the truth, you know,

Love is all we need.

We are the world, we are the children

Our culture seemed to have a romantic picture of “the world” in those days, but when it came to starting a homeless shelter in Forest Park, many residents replied vehemently, “Not in my back yard! (NIMBY)”

As you all know, we got over that response to “who is my neighbor.” Now, it seems to me, NIMBY is being replaced by OIMBY, i.e. only in my back yard. Only those living near me are my neighbors. Exhibit A: the response by many to the flood of illegal young immigrants coming across our borders. Exhibit B: the negative response of some Forest Park merchants to having a Maywood entrepreneur speak at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Exhibit C: A pastor from our area declining to participate in the CROP Walk, because he believes that more of the money raised should stay around here.

The mood, it seems, has shifted from “I’d like to hold the world in my arms and keep it company” to “only in my backyard.” PADS has gone to near the top of almost everyone’s favorite charity list, partly because they are good at what they do, partly because the 1,000 people from our tri-village area who volunteer at the shelter can see first-hand what their time and money are accomplishing, and partly because we who volunteer feel that we are “taking care of our own.”

Dist. 209, on the other hand, seems to be near the bottom of our list of neighbors we need to care about, even they are located right over the river and through the woods. Our avoidance of dealing with the two high schools located in Maywood seems to be motivated by the same belief held by the 86 percent of U.S. citizens who don’t vote in primary elections, i.e. my vote won’t change things so why bother. And I say this, admitting that I sent my daughter to Fenwick in 1992 instead of to Proviso East.

So, who’s my neighbor? Or, to put it another way, which attitude do you prefer: 1) we are the world but not in my backyard or 2) only in my backyard and let the rest of the world take care of itself? 

Neither NIMBY or OIMBY seem to be the answer. In the parable it was a foreigner, you will remember, who stopped to help the man lying on the side of the road.

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