April 15, 2022

Legos at Easter: We’re made to work together to build something beautiful with our neighbors.

My grandchildren love to build all sorts of things – spaceships, castles, skyscrapers – with Legos.  For them, snapping together brightly colored Lego bricks to create something new is a fun outlet for their imagination.

I’m not so enamored with Legos myself – I’ve had too many late night, barefoot encounters with hard-edged bits of plastic that a grandchild left behind on the floor.

The other day I thought about how Legos are a lot like people. Legos come in different shapes, sizes and colors, but they are all made – just like us – to connect to each other.

When we work together to fit our unique skills and experiences with other people’s skills and experiences, we can create all sorts of beautiful, lasting assets that strengthen our communities, each other and ourselves.

But when we go it alone, and get separated from our mission and purpose, we can cause a lot of pain and frustration for ourselves and for others. Just like a lost Lego hiding in the carpet.

At Easter, I’m reminded by my faith that Jesus commanded his followers to love our neighbors. The instruction wasn’t to love only those people who think, talk, look and live like we do. Our neighbors come from all sorts of nationalities, races and religions.  They have different life experiences. They speak different languages and follow different traditions and customs.

Still, they are our neighbors and we’re called to love them. Not in spite of our differences. But because we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made, and each person is just as important, just as valuable as any president, celebrity or CEO.

Now, the fact we’re all created equal doesn’t mean we have equal resources or opportunities. As inflation surges at the fastest rate in 40 years, I know neighbors on the east side of Indianapolis who have watered down their children’s milk to stretch it further. And I know mothers and fathers who’ve sacrificed caring for their own health needs to be able to feed their kids.

One aspect of love is to help when you see neighbors in need. When you give to great organizations like Second Helpings and Gleaners and Midwest food banks, that’s love.

 At Shepherd Community Center, we were recently blessed with a $120,000 grant from Gleaners to expand our food pantry, which serves hundreds of families on the east side.

Such grants wouldn’t be possible without the support – the love – that neighbors share with neighbors in our city. And we are deeply thankful for the generous help so many people provide.

But the needs are great and growing. Many of my neighbors are still recovering from the loss of income they suffered during the pandemic when many businesses, including Indy’s tourism and sports sectors shut down. The Colts, Pacers, Indians and Indy Eleven provide entertainment and excitement for many of us; for my members, they provide paychecks that sustain their families.

Even now, with businesses, the convention center and stadiums open again, families are struggling to rebuild savings they burned through and pay back debt they racked up over the past two years.

Their financial recovery is even more difficult now with housing prices and transportation costs skyrocketing.  Just getting to work and back has become considerably more expensive for my neighbors as gas hovers around $4 a gallon and the average price of a used car or truck shot up a shocking 40.5% percent last year.

Our elected leaders at all levels of government certainly have an essential role in helping families get through these increasingly hard times.  But government can’t – and shouldn’t try – to do it all.

Each of us can make a lasting difference as well by being a good neighbor. A loving neighbor.

Like those Legos my grandchildren love, we are made to fit together in community to build something beautiful. This Easter, let’s love our neighbors by connecting with them and by serving to meet their needs.

Jay Height is executive director of Shepherd Community Center.

This column by Jay Height was originally published by The Indianapolis Star on April 15, 2022.

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