There are several lessons we can take away from the story The Little Engine that Could. One that I hadn't noticed until last week, when I my son decided he wanted to listen to it a lot of times in a row (which I didn't really mind because I love that book), is that it's a good Samaritan (or good neighbor) story.
When the little train's engine couldn't make it any further, the toys try to get help from passersby. They ask the shiny new engine, but his response is that he won't stoop that low because he carries passenger and dining cars. The next one who wanders by is also too good to help, because he's important carrying heavy machinery. Then an older engine comes by but simply says he's too tired and that he can't.
Then another engine comes along. It's shiny and small, really an unlikely candidate to help. He starts off by asking what the problem was while being friendly and positive. With his "I think I can" attitude he offers a helping hand and together they make it over the mountain to help the boys and girls on the other side.
See why it reminds me of the parable Jesus taught of the Good Samaritan? (Parable below.) While many would just pass the hurt man on the road thinking that they were either to high to help or that someone else would, finally the most unlikely candidate steps up to the task. This unlikely person was a Samaritan or person of a different race, and not only helps the man there, but takes him to safety, cleans him up, feeds him and cares for him.
How many tasks do we pass up because we think we are too skilled or too good to do them? How many people do we pass by without even giving them so much as a smile or hello, let alone a helping hand? How many ministries do we support who help people in need? How many people do we open our homes to? The list goes on of questions we could and should ask ourselves about how we are doing as neighbors and what we can do to change.
Jesus made a clear point about who the neighborly person was, or good neighbor was. But in the end, even if we are nice to our neighbors (here and there and everywhere) but don't share with them the motive of why we are nice--it's all for not. We must love because He first loved us. We are nice because Jesus was nice when we weren't even capable of being nice. The good things we express are only because they are attributes of God that we are reflecting. This world needs Jesus.