How do you find the right first words? 

For so many years, this column has been filled exclusively by George Mason’s insights and wisdom. What is there to say but thank you? 

For years, George has taken his work outside the church so that even those of us beyond his congregation may come to know something of the holy in our neighborhood. George’s commitment to this column is just one testament to the fact that he has spent his career not only as an exceptional pastor but also as a good neighbor.

Neighborliness should not be confused for common decency. Common decency is waving from your front porch as you take in your morning paper and smiling at those you pass on the sidewalk as you walk your dog. Those are respectable things, but those are not neighborly things.

Being a good neighbor is much more work than being pleasant to those in your line of sight. It’s a commitment to asking two questions over and over again. 

First, “who is my neighbor?” as in “who is living around me? Do I know them?” 

Second, “how can I love my neighbor?” or “how can I live in solidarity with my neighbor?” 

Being a good neighbor is anything but passive. It’s a commitment to living beyond your own self-interests. 

Good neighbors are keenly aware of how their actions impact their larger neighborhood, so they can’t help but think about their neighbors as they determine how they’ll vote and what social policies they want to support and how they want to spend their money in the community. 

Being a good neighbor is first about knowing your neighbor and then living in a way that lets your neighbor know they are loved. 

Good neighbors wave from the front porch as they collect their morning paper and then go sit at their dining room tables and think about the person they just waved to as they read the paper. They wonder how the news of the day is impacting those around them. 

Good neighbors want to ensure that the welcoming smiles exchanged by dogwalkers on the sidewalk are more than common decency. It’s simply the byproduct of a neighborhood filled with good neighbors.

And luckily for us, if we need an example, we have George right in our neighborhood who has shown us for years what it means to be a good neighbor. 

So what is there to say but thank you?