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HEARTS of the CITY | Navigating the Real World

A rotating panel of experts from the worlds of philosophy, psychology and religion offer their perspective on the dilemmas that come with living in Southern California.

July 24, 1996|K. CONNIE KANG / Times staff writer

Today's question: In urban life, where the desire for privacy and the need to help one's neighbors sometimes collide, how does one maintain good neighborliness without intruding on someone else's privacy?

Richard J. Mouw

President, Fuller Theological Seminary

Good neighborliness has never been easy, which is why the Bible sees the failure to love our neighbors as a unique symptom of human sinfulness. But things are especially difficult today, in a society where mutual suspicion and cross-cultural misunderstanding run rampant. A present-day good Samaritan might get sued for his efforts! It is difficult for us to act for each other's good when we have no shared commitment to the common good. Guessing about our private-public boundaries can be very frustrating. We need to talk together about the questions: in neighborhood gatherings, churches and synagogues, phone-in radio shows, newspaper forums. Honest conversation won't solve everything--but it is a good start.

Father John P. Daly

Director, Center for Asian Business, Loyola Marymount University

Frequently our social life is limited to co-workers and friends from our church, our clubs and other organizations. We may occasionally see our next-door neighbors, but know little about them. I think we should begin with the accepted notion that people need people. Our neighbors may need us and we should reach out--a friendly word, an invitation to coffee, even using the old excuse of borrowing a cup of sugar. Why wait? Our neighbor may be waiting! We should take the first step--it may gladden our neighbors' lives, and will certainly brighten our own. Yes, there can be closed doors, but someone has to knock first.

Tom Choi

Pastor, Ascension-English Ministry, Los Angeles Korean United Methodist Church

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" is known as the Golden Rule. But this has been interpreted [as], "If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you." A more useful interpretation is, "As I would want my neighbors to treat me with dignity, understanding, patience and respect, so I will always endeavor to treat them in the same manner." Another aspect of good neighborly conduct is forgiveness. But the saying "forgive and forget" has also been misinterpreted. It does not mean forgetting an offense or conflict. It means being willing to forget the resentment that a particular situation may cause and seek a peaceful resolution for the sake of the ongoing relationship.

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