The Gift of Neighbors

A story from my recent adventure in the Middle East establishing an art gallery around the question, “Who is your neighbor?”

I created a set of artwork for the gallery called “Global Neighbors Triptych.” In it, portraits of my American sister and Chinese friend, each surrounded by cultural motifs, flank a central image in which local symbols form a border for a small mirror. The effect of the piece is to say, “You are my neighbor, just as people near and far have become my neighbors.” I found joy in seeing people engage with the piece on their phones; here is a selfie by my friend Mira:

Global Neighbors Triptych

Sadly, the round mirror that I had brought with me from the States broke shortly before the first reception. Without thinking about the impact I had tried to hammer something in on the other side of the wall. The owner of the afterschool club we were hosting–a quiet, older man we dubbed “Grandpa”– noticed what happened. He said, “I will take care of it,” and rushed off.

Grandpa delighted my exhausted heart when he returned an hour later with a circular mirror, the glass of which he had gotten specially cut for me. Unfortunately, due to poor adhesives and insufficient drying time, this mirror lasted only a few hours. Yet, the next day when my friends went to search for a mirror for me, another elderly gentleman handed them a well-loved octagonal mirror for free. We found a stronger glue, and people were able to enjoy the full impact of the piece again.

These two older men, in the spirit of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, fulfilled the commandment to be a neighbor. They saw that I had need, and, saying hardly a word to me, fulfilled it, expecting nothing in return. I thank them and hope that, by sharing this story, we might remember to look not only at and for ourselves but also at and for our neighbors.

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