Some years ago, I knew an African American woman who had moved into a very white neighborhood. She had just lost her husband and son in a traffic accident and, as a single Mom, was doing her best to raise her other son. Her new home was to be a place of hope and renewal. It turned out to be a living hell.
Her next-door neighbor, a bigoted and angry man, started calling her the ‘n’ word. When she ignored this, he upped the ante. He started calling the police and telling them she was trespassing on his land. She put up a fence. He installed video cameras over the top of that fence. She put up tarps. He built a watchtower. Her life was out of control.
Her neighbors became her saving grace. They took turns watching her house while she was at work. They walked her son to the bus stop. Finally, when this hate-filled man blasted this poor woman with a high-pressure hose, she went to the police to file charges. They had been expecting her. In fact, because of her neighbors, they already had a task force assigned to stop this madman. Yet, as I found out, stopping hate is not so easy; he had a good lawyer. But because of her neighbors and a new hate crime bill that had just passed the State legislature, he was convicted, forced to move, and she had her life back.
I recall in another city when our neighbor had her house broken into. She might have scared off the intruders because she heard noises coming into her home and nothing was taken. She phoned everyone in the neighborhood to let them know this had happened. Yes, she was still shaken, her life out of control, but she wanted her neighbors to be aware since the police had told her there were other break-ins nearby. Our neighbors were sympathetic, my wife Francis brought her a big bouquet of sunflowers. Our neighbor placed them in her front window for all to see. A sign of compassion in her life which for a while seemed so out of control.
This might just be the Spring to learn your neighbors’ names. Think of it as a spiritual practice.
The feminist author Anaïs Nin once wrote, “We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” As we face the trouble of our lives, when life is most out of control, we must take a deep breath, look around, do what we can do, ask for help and help others. Julian of Norwich put it best: “…all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Enjoy your Spring and get to know your neighbors –
Yours always, Rev. John