"Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives." C.S. Lewis
He knocks on our door mid-morning and rouses us from our mid-morning nap. "I knew you were home," he says. "I've been stopping by to find you all week, but I could tell your door was unlocked." Husband laughs a little, they shake hands, he comes in and sits down. "Here, I got something for your little one," he hands over a John Deere plastic plate set. "Meant to get round here 'fore Christmas but somehow time slipped by." He apologizes, and talks friendly banter. Before he leaves, he gets a sad look in his eye and says, "I have something to tell you."
What he says is no surprise to us. You don't think the worst of your neighbor, but then, in these parts all kinds of rumors fly. We don't believe most of them. We're glad he tells us, and we tell him we're still glad he's our neighbor. He's afraid, you can tell, of social stigmas. He wants to feel like he's still respected, valued. And you can see the hint of sadness in his eyes. To listen, just listen to someone's story doesn't mean you agree with their actions. To listen and love means that in spite of their actions, you care about them. This isn't about me. This isn't about the community. This isn't 'us' against 'them'.
The cool of the air bites against my exposed hand. Baby is in the car, and hubby and I approach the house. We knock firmly. From out back, an older gentlemen todders towards us. "What do you want?" he aims the words. I sputter, "Um, this is for you. Merry Christmas, we are your neighbors from a mile up the road. We've been meaning to meet you for awhile. " He smiles, his hand trembles, his words soften. "Thanks. I've 'een working on that tractor out back, trying to get 'er running." Hubby talks a bit, then we make our way back to the car. To act, to attempt a gesture of kindness takes raw bravery. This isn't about me. This is about community. This isn't 'me' against 'them'.
Jagged hope, raw with trial bleeds and writes her name 'love' on my heart. On the days I'd rather pull the sheets over my head than get up, I remember that loving my neighbor is loving the people in my house. Loving my neighbor may take some amount of sacrifice. Loving my neighbor frees me from my own self-pity. Loving my neighbor will do more good than judging my neighbor.