Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Being Neighborly

Where I am in Michigan we got nearly a foot of snow yesterday. Usually, the guys who plow our properties would drop by my place after they had completed the others. By early evening when I arrived home from the gym my snow had not been plowed. They were having mechanical problems. So, I wrapped up a bit tighter, having worked out for nearly two hours, and began shoveling. Soon as I began I noticed that the lot on the corner, where a middle-aged woman was horribly violated in a very unusual intrusion nearly a month or so ago, had not been shoveled. The thought came to me to do hers after I finished mine. I had been looking for a way to be helpful to her. After the incident I asked a police officer what I should do to help. He said that she was in a state of shock and thought it best that I do nothing. Oh, how my heart ached. But I reluctantly took his advice, instead riding by the house and wishing her the very best each and every time I passed.

As I stood there soaking wet in the night air chilled to the bone, I looked at her very large lot which is almost twice the size of mine and said aloud, mustering courage, "It won’t take long." If my guys were there I would have just sent them over. They weren't. But to my complete delight two young men jumped out of a truck to plow my neighbor's lot a few houses down. I went over and asked if they could go to the corner house when they were finished. They readily agreed, but said that because the lot was twice as large that the cost would be twice as much. No problem. I walked back to finish shoveling my lot nearly skipping. I was happy. As they finished and began walking to the corner lot, the thought came to me that if my neighbor came home and saw these men on her property it might evoke fear and horrible memories. I stopped shoveling and went directly over to stand watch to explain to my arriving neighbor if needed. It took them an hour with two blowers.

Standing there I became completely warm, sending good thoughts of healing to my neighbor and watching the guys do a good deed for someone who probably needed it. I really didn’t know how to best express my sorrow. Hers must have been so deep. I don’t know her well besides a general greeting. Usually, you can only get a glimpse of her blonde hair under a straw or wool hat. But she always speaks. Oh, how I wished that I could take that horrid memory away from her. She had lived there for nearly three decades when my brother first bought the house that I bought when he passed. I wondered if he knew her and what he might have done. He was so very neighborly and gallant. I wanted to remove the pain I knew she must have felt. While that was impossible, what was very possible is the small thing that I could do to show her that somebody out there cared. We can all do that whether at home or work. It has a snowball effect.

My neighbor has no idea that I sent the young men over to plow her snow or that I stood out there in the night air wet to the bone. This mattered not to me in the very least. But I cannot even begin to tell you how my sleep was so much sweeter. I cannot even begin to tell you how much better I felt. I don't know how it will be perceived by my neighbor, but for me that small thing was large indeed. Because these young men were so affable and did such a fine job, I told them that each time it snowed for the rest of the season that that they were to come see me first and then go to the corner lot and take care of my neighbor. They were happy about getting a new customer and so was I with the thought of being neighborly.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself." (Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31)


septembermom said...

Your actions and intentions are what Christ asks of each of us. I'm humbled to know you Judith. You're a true angel here on earth!

Judith Ellis said...

Christ is my greatest example. I fail miserably often but that doesn't prevent me from trying again. Our neighbor, by the way, is anyone near us anytime, anywhere.

Dave Wheeler said...

Auntie J,

Just another example of why you are the best my friend. One of my current students said the best advice she ever received on how to achieve her goals in life was "Don't talk about it...be about it"! You have been about service before self, helping others, and touching peoples lives in very meaningful ways for as long as I have been privileged to "know" you...terrific you are indeed my friend!

Pamela said...

This was such a beautiful act of kindness. Thank you for the reminder and for sharing.

Judith Ellis said...

Dave - You are my friend as revealed by your words and I appreciate this. I do not often feel as if I'm doing enough, neither do I always understand what happens in the world that often moves me to anger and sadness. The opposite side of that is immense joy and love. For the latter, and often times the former, I try to be the very best that I can possibly be. As I often say, I fail in this effort, but I never tire of trying. Do continue to wish me the best as I will do the very same for you. Thanks again for your words of encouragement. They matter.

Judith Ellis said...

Pam - Sharing is so very essential to living. I actually don't know how else to be.

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."

--Mother Teresa

Judith Ellis said...

I love your student's words, Dave. They are blessed to have you.

chesapeake said...

Great story, Judith. I love that you may never know the impact that had on her day. Serving others is truly the way to a fulfilled life. Thanks for the reminder.