Sunday Afternoon And Wham

We’re awaiting our guests in just about half an hour and my wife’s taking a bath when the doorbell rings. I think it might be our guests, but more likely it’s a solicitor on a Sunday afternoon. Wrong on both counts. A man I’ve never met before is telling me that his phone isn’t working and he’s taking care of some things at our neighbor’s place because the neighbor and his wife are at the hospital. Our neighbor is IN the hospital and his wife is with him.

Of course he can use my phone and he gives me the number and I dial it and hand him the phone and pretty soon he says that nothing is happening. I’ve forgotten to click the option now that I’ve got Skype on it as well as “normal” calling. After he leaves a message he talks with me for a few minutes about being really good friends with our neighbor and people he has lost in his life recently as well as sharing with me about being a caregiver for his mom.

I’m glad I went to church this morning and heard Ramiro Marchena preach. I’m trying to just be there for him and listen as he shares about the situation and what he’s experienced recently. I didn’t know my neighbor was in such bad shape. I just paused now to say a prayer for my neighbor. Sometimes we really have to stop and pay attention to what we’re doing. Maybe if I hadn’t been paying attention to the sermon this morning I wouldn’t have been as patient. Maybe I would have. I hope I would have.

But it does bring up some interesting questions.

How well do we know our neighbors?

How well do we treat people around us?

Do we care enough to go out of our way for people?

Would we be doing the same thing in this man’s position?

Is there someone there for us if we are in the same situation as my neighbor?

It’s odd to be relating something so immediate in this exercise. I don’t know how long I’ll write today.

I read In The Neighborhood. At least that’s what I remember it being called. A few months ago.

The author talked about how we don’t really know our neighbors like we used to. We even build neighborhoods like they aren’t really neighborhoods in many cases. The author lived on the East Coast as I remember and his neighborhood that wasn’t really a neighborhood was built about 80 or 90 years ago. They built it then in a way that insured so much privacy that it took away from the “neighborliness” of the place.

But architecture and design aside, what about how we behave? The sermon today was about how we can make a choice to be more engaged. Most people will think you’re a good neighbor if you close your door and keep your place relatively clean and don’t make much noise. But is that really the best thing for a neighborhood? Just go inside and close the door?

Ramiro Marchena related how he and his son will deliberately spent about 20 minutes several times a week just “wasting time” with neighbors in order to get to know them.

With my neighbor on insulin and in a wheelchair I knew not all was well, but he’s not that old. Maybe late 50’s or early 60’s.

A while back I got his dog for him when it ran away as he was boarding a handicapped mini-bus and that was relatively easy for me to do. If I wasn’t there it could have been a real pain in the neck for him to get his dog. I have no idea if the driver of the van would do something like that. My guess is that it depends on the driver. Although I would think most drivers would help out in that situation. But these day many people do say, “My job ends here.” I don’t necessarily mean that they say it explicity, but that seems to be the attitude with a lot of people. I’m not singling out drivers or public employees.

When we had a blackout in September I went next door to see if the neighbor’s power was off and found out that it was. She was anxious to close the door really fast after I confirmed that we both had no power. I’m sure she wanted to keep the cool air inside on the hot September afternoon.

Occasionally saying hello is about all the interaction I’ve had with these two neighbors. I don’t think I’m that unusual in my neighborhood, but maybe I will get out there soon and “waste some time” with neighbors so I can be more helpful in the future.

I don’t think anyone resents me not being more social in my neighborhood. That’s part of what the author of the book said. People usually choose that neighborhood for their own reasons and their own reasons usually include this idea of privacy and a certain amount of keeping to yourself. While this is certainly an option in the land of the free and the home of the brave, maybe there are better options.

And this is Lent, too.

Maybe I can give up keeping to myself quite so much for Lent.

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