How can I be a Better Neighbor

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

As I write this I am sitting over the wing of a Detla flight heading from Buffalo to Atlanta. You’ll forgive me if this article sounds a bit snoodier than you are accustomed to from me, but remember: I’m currently above it all.

When I walked on the plane this afternoon a very lovely woman was sitting in the aisle seat in my row. She stood as the only barrier between me and my “personal time machine & at the window. I call it time travel because if I have it my way I fall asleep in one place and time and wake up in another. Well, unfortunately, Delta isn’t Burger King, and I didn’t have it my way.

The woman next to me started all of the pleasantries. We talked about our day, our travel plans, and our lives at home. Actually, it was quite a lovely conversation. That is, until the scariest thing on an airplane (not snakes) started coming for us. It was a baby! The horror, I know. We stared at it the way most people do babies on airplanes… with contempt and the strongest desire that it wouldn’t sit by us. And yet, when the woman turned to me and said, “Let’s hope this baby keeps smiling,” I was reminded of an incident months before.

You see a few months ago—our three children,—something similar happened. It wasn’t a flight to Atlanta this time, but Charleston (the Hannons have a thing for the South!). We boarded the plane the Southwest Airlines boards all its families. With all of the other families we hoped on the plane between the A and B boarding groups. As we walked down the aisle after all of the other families, the first family sat and without using our words my wife and I both look at each other with eyes that said, “Let’s not sit by that family.” A few aisles later another family sat, and my wife, Carol and I repeated our gaze. When at last we had gotten away from all of the other families we sat in a formerly quiet aisle ourselves and the strangest thing started to happen. Suddenly we notice people passing empty seats by us with a very familiar gaze. You know the one. The one that says, “Not by that family.”

Our three children were mostly good during the flight, but the point hit home. We were so worried about sitting next to that family that we didn’t realize we were that family. Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not worry about the twig in your neighbor’s eye, but the log in your own.” 30,000 feet above the sea it’s easy to think you are “above it all.” It’s easy to judge. But we are not called to worry about others. God calls us to look at ourselves.

So don’t worry about the person in the seat next to you, that family on your plane, or any of your neighbors. Instead ask, how can I be a better neighbor? What’s the twig in my eye? How can I stop being that family, and start living like God’s family today?

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.