By Cory Whitehead
Ten years ago, I intentionally moved into a neighborhood where I was – and am – the “other.” Very few people look like me or have a white-collar career like me. Yet, I feel at home here.
On my daily walk, my neighbors remind me of their own giving spirit, as simple as their smiles and waves from their front yards. I see their generosity through their familial commitment of multigenerational households, and through their frequent weekend backyard parties with festive music (and bounce houses!).
Our world is divided and broken, and it is often laced with negative rhetoric and preconceived notions about people that look, live, or believe differently. It can feel discouraging and heavy, and it takes real intentionality to live out the gospel instead.
In Ephesians 4:3-6, Paul speaks to believers, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
This passage gives me hope because it reminds me that we have so much in common – that we aspire for so much of the same thing. It reminds me that the kingdom of God is available for each person I encounter, just as much as it is for me.
Many of my neighbors did not grow up in my city or in this country, and significantly more have parents and grandparents that did not. Many came seeking a better life; others came because they had little or no choice.
They may not have grown up in safety and stability. It wasn’t a given that they’d get degrees and have many choices about how to make a living. It is not a given that they can see their families when they choose.
The longer I live where I do, the more privileged I feel, and the more Christ softens my heart toward those with different experiences. Their stories inspire and encourage me.
I want to be a man of God who loves others deeply and gives more selflessly and sacrificially. I can do this through my presence of being a good neighbor – pursuing unity and peace. And I can do this by joining ministries like World Relief Chicagoland. Through my service and my giving, I make it possible for World Relief to help more people in my neighborhood and community.
World Relief is an instrument of change, working tirelessly to alleviate suffering and restore hope to communities who have witnessed so much poverty, conflict, and injustice. When we open our hearts and our resources to those in need, we imitate Christ’s example of compassion and generosity. We become co-laborers in God’s redemptive work on earth.
And God so often uses our giving to give back to us: expanding our hearts, deepening our faith, and understanding his boundless love more clearly.
Piece written by Cory Whitehead, the Executive Director of Mission Advancement at Christianity Today and a part of the donor community of World Relief Chicagoland.