On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for men to become godly leaders in relationship, for women to be softened for and through relationship, and for marriages for those who desire them.
As the newspapers gathered on the front porch my concern grew. Only one time in four years did I see my neighbor outside her house, but never had the newspapers gone uncollected. In our few conversations she was always very friendly, but never seemed to want to be bothered too much, always keeping the conversations at the doorway. I rarely saw cars at her house… few people in or out.
The holidays provided me an excuse to invade her private life and attempt to bring a small glimmer of joy and human connection into her life. I was hoping the weekend with my nephews and our cookie making endeavors would be just such an excuse, who can resist three smiling boys. Well, it was before “operation cookie invasion” that the newspapers began piling up on her front porch. One, then two, and finally three, so I grabbed my sister and we went banging on the door. She finally opened the door and told us that she had a cold but was otherwise doing okay. It wasn’t long until the papers began piling up again. I didn’t want to keep bothering her, so when the 3 paper pile disappeared I thought she was getting better.
I was shocked when I arrived home later that week to find her front door glass broken. Turns out a relative called 911 because she wasn’t answering her phone. Emergency personnel broke into her house and took her to the hospital. My sister and I visited once, and I left a card with my phone number in case she needed something. A few days later her stepson called me to say she passed away.
About a week later I noticed some people at her house so I took the newspapers that I had been collecting over and introduced myself to her stepson. Turns out she had several family members offering to help her through the years, but she never wanted to venture out of her house. So there she lived with newspapers piling up in the living room, cigarette smoke staining the walls a dark yellow, and relationships pushed outside the door; only to come to the end of her life with few connections and no reason to have a funeral service to commemorate her life.
I don’t know the details of my neighbor’s life or if there was a reason for her reclusion from the world, but it makes me sad that she was so shut off from family and friends. I’m reminded again this holiday season just how precious relationships with others are, not only because I continue to need help from family for the bright ideas I have like bathroom remodels and such, but because relationships with others are foundational to my faith in Christ and my own joy in life. What would the world be like if everyone took the time to truly care for one another and love them with their life? It’s so easy to be busy living that we fail to live with meaning. I can only attempt to do my part… one neighbor, family member, friend, and stranger at a time. I don’t want to miss out on the overflowing joys of life that come from doing life with other people — difficulties and all.
John 15: 9 – 13
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends…
May joy fill your hearts this Christmas and overflow into the relationships with those around you!
‘Tis the season!