Last Friday, Henry and I took our first day trip since the pandemic started. He’d been hungering for the sight of autumn leaves and watching the online leaf meter for northern Arizona. The time was ripe, and early on Friday morning we headed up to Oak Creek Canyon, outside Sedona.
Yes, it might seem excessive to drive 3.5 hours one way to see autumn leaves, but our souls were hungry. We used to live in New England, where the autumn leaves are stunning. Even where we lived in New Mexico, autumn leaves could be gorgeous (as I shared recently on my Instagram account). Here at home, there are a few Arizona Ash trees that change color in the fall, but there just aren’t the bright swaths of color adorning the landscape in the same way. So, we headed north.
In Oak Creek Canyon is a small state park called Slide Rock. Named after an eighty-foot-long rock slide formed in the red sandstone base of Oak Creek, the place is a popular vacation destination. This was our first visit, and I can imagine it would be packed with people on summer weekends. On a cloudy November morning, there were perhaps a dozen of us exploring the area (none yet swimming) when a young woman slipped and fell into the water.
Those of us nearby came over to offer help, but she waved us off and her companion helped her from the water. She sat on a nearby stone while we explored, taking pictures and admiring the many natural colors. Eventually, the woman tried to stand up and couldn’t put weight on her foot. She sat again, and Henry went over to offer to fetch a park employee. Her companion said that he had just been about to do that, so we told him to stay with her and climbed out of the canyon and back to the entrance booth.
After notifying the staff, we walked back, aiming for the overlook trail this time. It wasn’t long before a fire truck showed up, so evidently she’d done something more serious than simply twist her ankle (or it was bad enough that climbing out of the canyon under her own power wasn’t an option). From the top, we watched as she was cared for and eventually transported away. We continued on our walk and photography, and I admit that I was very careful about not getting too close to the edge on the overlooks!
As we drove home, we were listening to vote-tally updates on the radio and I found myself thinking about being a good neighbor. We didn’t stop to think about the racial/ethnic makeup, class, or socio-economic status of the young woman and her companion. We didn’t ask whether they had voted Democrat or Republican. They needed help, and we responded. We did our part. Just like the good Samaritan (read “foreigner”) in Jesus’ parable, we reached out, without question, to a neighbor who needed our help.
As America moves on from a very contentious election season, we need to remember that, for Jesus—and therefore for any true Christian—anyone can be our neighbor. We are all created equal in God’s sight. Anyone who responds with help—without regard for tribe or creed—is neighborly. To be good neighbors, we need to keep our eyes open and we need to respond with love and care, regardless of who ends up in front of us.
Those of us with white power and privilege also need to recognize that Biden winning the presidential election is not the end of the journey. There’s still a long way to go until we have true equality amongst all neighbors in this vast, and vastly troubled, land.
I invite you to watch and pray for opportunities this week to be a good neighbor, and to learn what else needs to change.