Around dusk, I ventured up the street to our neighbor’s house. They are on vacation and we have been taking care of their lizard, fish, plants, mail, and newspapers. We go up twice a day to feed the fish, water, collect newspapers and mail, and turn on/off the lizard’s lamp. The lizard still has crickets hopping around so there is no need to feed him (or her, we don’t know) until he cleans his seven-day-old plate. We love these neighbors. I have known the husband since seventh-grade, but have really only had consistent interaction with him over the course of our decade in the neighborhood. The recent interaction has made me wish I had branched out from my own group of friends in high school. We love the way they live, the way they raise their kids, the way they have integrated their two different faiths, and the way they make you feel very important with every engagement.
Across the street from them is a retired couple who are also wonderful. They are Jewish. The husband grew up as the son of a Rabbi. There is a reason I mention their faith. It is pertinent and not just my attempt to convince you that I am open-minded. In all of my adult years, they are the only neighbors who have ever brought us homemade – and decorated – Christmas cookies. They frequently ask me about our church and our kids. They are genuinely interested.
Across the street from us are recent transplants from Britain. They are very kind and respectful and join us in our skepticism of the local television weatherpersons when it comes tornado season. They take refuge in our tornado shelter and, together, we attempt to estimate which of the broadcasters’ rants need to be taken seriously. They are very smart. He is a physics professor at the local university. Regardless of actual intellect, however, all they have to do is begin speaking with their British accents and we automatically give them credit for great wisdom and discernment. It is like having sat in the living room with Maggie Smith at Highclere Castle wondering for weeks afterwards if you were insulted or complimented.
On one side of our house, we have a neighbor with a huge soccer goal cemented in the front yard. When we initially moved into our house, they invited our soccer-playing children over to use the net anytime. I have always appreciated the eye-catching net for use as a landmark when giving directions to our house. I don’t think the previous owner of our house liked the net, or these neighbors. She repeatedly called the police when they attempted to cut the limbs from her old and gigantic tree which were resting on their vehicles. The police would inform her that the neighbors were permitted to cut the limbs which were stretching over their property, but she continued to call and complain anyway. During the first year living in our home, a devastating ice storm toppled that entire tree, causing a section of the trunk to fall and strategically land on three of their cars. No insurance covered the damage – ours nor theirs. They never complained to us and have always been beyond gracious.
On our other side is a retired widow who has taught us the meaning of tenacity and determination. She is always there to express concern and offer help. She has admitted that one of her chief goals in life is to make me look bad, her strategy is to spend every day either re-mowing or perfecting her already perfect lawn. Andrea, and the kids, often ask, “Why can’t our lawn look like that?” as we pull into our garage. When the other trunk of our tree fell onto our roof, this neighbor climbed the ladder to our steep, and icy, roof to help me place a tarp over the holes caused by the fallen tree.
We are very blessed.
I often fail to recognize and appreciate the blessings we have on our street. I often fail to look around and pay attention. I often neglect to fathom these and so many other next door blessings. I often let every nature of meaningless and trivial distractions keep me from seeing what is right in front of my eyes.
I am determined to pay better attention, I’m determined to see those blessings right next door….beginning today.