WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR
Like others in St. James Parish, on Sundays I kneel and sincerely confess my sins to our most merciful God. I long ago memorized this Confession of Faith knowing I have been forgiven and go on to participate in the Holy Eucharist. Recently, as I pondered that Sunday’s Confession of Faith, it occurred to me ask myself, “What is my duty as a Christian, wasn’t it to be more? I couldn’t honestly admit that I truly loved my neighbor as myself.
I hardly knew my neighbor at all and suspected she might not be wholly lovable. Living alone in the adjoining half of the duplex Fr. Jos arranged for me to rent, I knew she must comply with the terms of the lease as do I. She is rarely home and I assumed she spent much time with the fellow whose bright red pickup was often in her driveway. Once or twice when I saw the familiar truck I tentative rang the doorbell and asked if he would carry a heavy parcel from my car and he always willingly did so.
How nice, I thought, maybe Kim and I could be friends. She seemed to be cordial enough but always preoccupied and never seemed to be home. Further, she appeared to usually be too busy to take a turn at moving the joint trash container to or from the curb on trash pick-up day. When I decided to have a ton of gravel delivered to be spread on my side of the front area near the building and asked if she wanted me to order enough for us both, she declined although once commented that she had noticed me spread the gravel on my side and then around the tree in our joint front yard. But did that mean we were really neighbors? Our landlady arranged to have the lawn mowed but we are expected to remove the leaves that fall from the tree in Autumn. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but the leaves didn’t turn a lovely shade of red or yellow this past fall. They just clung to the branches until one day I walked out the front door to an unexpected sight. On her side of the walkway, there was a tiny cluster of leaves bunched neatly together. My side was covered with at least an ankle-deep heap of leaves blanketing my whole side of the walk. How, indeed, could this have happened, particularly since she was rarely home? After calming myself down from righteous indignation, I grabbed several large plastic lawn bags and spent several hours gathering the leaves into said bags and was off to the recycling center near Lone Pine and Battlefield that Vickie had introduced me to.
So much for the leaves, but I didn’t forget the neat little bunch still remaining on the other side and so life went on. That is until a few weeks before Christmas when my cell phone rang as I wandered the aisles of Aldi’s. It was Kim inquiring if I was at home and to which I advised her of my current whereabouts. In response she replied that there had been a delivery for me that had been left with her and I should pick it up. After hauling my groceries from the car I rang her doorbell. Immediately the door swung open and before me stood Kim, attired in a tee shirt and sweat pants. My eyes were drawn to the gray tee shirt that had the word “Jesus” displayed on the front! The only words I can recall saying were, “You’re Christian?!”
“Yes,” she calmly replied as she handed me a lovely poinsettia. “Our landlady always does something wonderful for us a Christmas and this is for you.”
Talk about being embarrassed. Kim is my neighbor! After offering a “Merry Christmas” to each other I took my poinsettia and returned to my side of the duplex. It was then I accepted that Kim is a hardworking Christian woman who spends many hours working and what free time she has, enjoys it with a person who means a lot to her.
While the leaf issue remains unresolved, everything else fell into place. The next Sunday as I knelt for the Confession of Faith, I really listened to what I was saying and have a renewed understanding of who and what my neighbors are. My neighbor is Kim next door. It is the African American truck-driver down the street. It is my old high school classmates I have lunch with once a month and long-time tennis pals I also occasionally share a meal with. It is the homeless man blessed enough to have a home at Eden Village and the homeless women to which I donate a few personal items each month for the Safe to Sleep Project. It is the native American children the “Wrapped in Prayer” knitters made sweaters for one year and regularly make prayer shawls for the ever present unfortunates that struggle with illness. And, thanks be to God, it is the wonderful people of St. James Parish who are more than neighbors, they are my family.
By Louanna H. LeCompte