Help Is Just A Backyard Away
My friend, Lisa, woke up the other morning to find a fire in her home. Her home barely stands now. It is completely ruined and unlivable. Lisa is also my neighbor. In fact, it was she who told me that the house I now live in was on the market and that I should come over and see it.
At five o'clock in the morning the neighborhood was awakened by the frightening sound of a fire engine's siren. Often heard only from a distance, the sound this time was close, too close. As we gathered outside our homes that bitter cold morning, we watched as the fire trucks wrestled with the icy roads to get up the hill to the burning house. There was a fire in our neighborhood, our neighborhood.
I'm forty-three years old and I have never witnessed a home burning before. I never felt the sadness I felt that morning, knowing it was the home of a neighbor, a friend. The first question everyone asked was the most important -- did everyone make it out safely? They all escaped safely, thank God, including the dog.
Eventually we returned to our homes to dress for work or to prepare to wake the children for school. And yet, while performing these daily rituals, we were haunted by what we knew was going on just up the street. We had a home to shower in. We were able to rouse our children from a bed that still stood in a room not threatened by flames. And we feel grateful, relieved, that it wasn't our home. Yet, even though it wasn't our home, we are affected. We feel an emptiness inside. Our spirit is grieving because one of ours is experiencing something we have all secretly hoped would never happen to us -- to our home.
So what do we do? We want to feel better about being spared such a disaster. We want to somehow make everything all right for those who weren't. And that is when our goodness, and kindness and generosity abound. This neighborhood, this fantastic, "old fashioned", (as my next door neighbor refers to us) neighborhood, rolled up their collective sleeves and got right to work.
Within five hours $1,000.00 was raised, and an abundance of clothes wereas collected. Families all over the neighborhood called and asked what they could do. Within 10 hours, small committees were formed to look into establishing a fund, to organizeing a dinner, and to printing and circulateing flyiers. Just 10 hours! Twelve hours after Lisa's house was stolen by fire, we were able to give her the money, the clothes, and the promise that there was more to come. Lisa, overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of her neighbors said, "But these people don't even know me!"
I thought about that all night. I decided in the morning that she was wrong. They do know you, Lisa. Because, you see, your property touches three other properties, and those properties touch three more and so on. And all of those lovely properties gently and without fanfare come together to form one neighborhood. And that, we know! We know our dear neighborhood, because it is there, when we turn into it's entrance, that we know we are almost home. We know that we are going to drive by the same homes we drove by yesterday. We know that we will see a mom lifting groceries out of her car in the driveway, and further down we'll pass children playing in the yard. We notice a new plant or a flower. We know our neighborhood. And Lisa, that is all we need to know. You, your home, your family are all part of the familiarity that makes us feel good each and every day. No, we don't all know your name, but we know you are there. And we know when you're not there. And if one of our homes is damaged, or a life is affected in some terribley adverse way, we grieve.
Are all neighborhoods the same? I suppose in many ways they are, but the people in this neighborhood are truly the salt of the earth -- the kind that you can depend on in a crisis. They are hard-working, good-hearted people. I couldn't be more thankful that their property touches my property. Charles Hanson Towne once wrote:; "Indeed, we do not really live unless we have friends surrounding us like a firm wall against the winds of the world." We are your wall right now Lisa -- and you are part of ours.