Having worked with families for more than three decades, I feel slightly qualified to generalize: A crisis tends to bring out the best in some individuals. Unfortunately, it brings out the worst in others.

It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since our excitement over the first-place Diamondbacks was brought to a horrifying halt on a sunny Tuesday morning. Like most of you, I was up and getting ready for work when I heard on the radio there was a fire in the World Trade Center. We dressed quickly and went downstairs to turn on the television and as the commentators speculated about a private plane diverting off course, the second jet struck.

It was instantly clear that this was no accident.

So much was lost that day; so many lives and families ripped apart that I will remember it as one of the saddest days of my life. We lost an innocent naïveté that I am not sure we will recover in my lifetime.

We are still engaged in the two longest wars in American history that have contributed significantly to the worst economy in nearly a century. Beyond that, fear and uncertainty continue to play far too important a role in our lives, and we are engaged in an ongoing quest to identify our enemy.

Sept. 11 will fall on a Sunday this year. Thinking about a children's sermon, I realized that the kids who spend a few minutes with me each Sunday were not even born on that sad day, but they will be immersed in the televised recollections and retrospectives as they have been immersed in the fear and distrust and perpetual warfare. What do we say to them?

Jesus didn't ask the question, "Who is my enemy?" Instead, he told a story that asked, "Who is my neighbor?"

Our neighbors were first responders who rushed to the scene and ran up stairways. Our neighbors were the people who, although wounded and frightened, helped others down.

Our neighbors are currently in New York and Vermont, helping our other neighbors whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Irene.

Our neighbors are packing millions of meals at Feed My Starving Children that are on their way to the Horn of Africa to feed our other neighbors in need.

Our neighbors are still on the ground in Haiti and Japan, helping our neighbors rebuild after devastating earthquakes.

Our neighbors are right here in the Foothills, and some of them have lost their jobs and homes, and others are bringing food and school supplies to the Kyrene Family Resource Center.

Our neighbors are bringing truckloads of fresh food to the pantry at the Assemblies of God Church.

Maybe that is what we can tell our children. And maybe we can tell them that our neighbors are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Mormons and Buddhists and a lot of other things, and that some of our neighbors do not go to church at all but that does not make them any less our neighbors.

On that awful Tuesday 10 years ago, we opened the doors of our church to our neighbors of all kinds because all of us were without words and needed to share our speechless pain with each other.

We will do so again on Sept. 11 at 8:30 and 10:30 am. I am sure other houses of faith will do so as well.

However you mark the day, and whatever you tell your children about it, I hope you will hear the words of the wonderful, late Fred Rogers, "Would you be my, could you be my, won't you be my neighbor?"

• Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.

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