The Risk in Being Neighborly

I was late going out for a walk yesterday and was nervously watching a drift of storms on the weather radar. Sure enough, as soon as I got to the trail head a light rain started.

I thought it might quit so I stayed in the truck and made a phone call to the North Carolina daughter. We were ten minutes into our chat when a man came out of the warming cabin and approached the truck. He could see I was on the phone so he kind of stood there looking nervous and waiting. When I could see that he wasn’t going away I told Julie I had to hang up and why. She said to call her back in five minutes or she was going to send people to rescue me.

I totally get that, and would have said the same to her. But isn’t it a sad thing that we all have heard of so many disappearances, abductions and murders? Isn’t it sad that we have to think about that and make provision for the possibility? Yes, it’s very sad. And that’s why I ask for God’s protection over my day and everything that comes with it. And then I trust him to give me something – instinct, intuition, a gut feeling, an angel. I don’t care, I just trust.

I might have had a few red flags initially, mostly because I had no idea where the man had come from. I had been there for quite a while and all the cars that had been there when I came had left when the rain started. Had he been in the cabin all along? Doing what?

When I considered rolling down the window so he could speak to me I looked at him closer. I began to dismiss any wild ideas when I saw he was fully decked out in his mountain bike gear, and had obviously been riding hard enough to break a sweat. He looked like he had a request. I couldn’t get the window down without starting the truck, which I didn’t want to do. I opened the door instead and stepped out.

He explained that he had been riding on the single track trail and a branch had gotten caught in the derailleur of the bike and it was broken, beyond his ability to repair it. He had walked a mile with the bike hoping to find someone at the trailhead and had entered the cabin on the opposite side from where I was parked. He had gone riding without his cell phone and was asking if I would call his wife to come get him.

We stepped into the pavilion to get out of the rain and I made the call, holding the phone so he could speak to her. But she didn’t pick up – the unfamiliar number that is usually a robo call must have thrown her off. He left a message. He was clearly in a bind so after hanging up, I asked him where he lived. It was only a few miles away and here I was with a truck – I had to offer him a ride home. I wasn’t going to walk in the rain anyway, so why not?

He was polite and genuinely grateful. He asked if I was concerned about taking him with the COVID 19 precautions. He offered to ride in the back seat. I was feeling more and more sure he was a nice guy and in no way a threat. We loaded up his broken bike and got on our way. We talked all the way to his house. He knows that I hike and volunteer for the Birkie ski race. I know that he has skied the Birkie 24 times and has retired in Hayward from Minneapolis. I dropped him off at his log cabin home in the woods, completely forgetting that I was supposed to call my daughter in five minutes, or else…

She promised she would call for help if I hadn’t returned her call in five minutes. I hadn’t. She did.

When I checked my phone on the way home it was full of calls from the daughter. I had scared her and she had been busy alerting my brother. The sherif was next on her list. I had gotten back to her just in time.

Talking about this experience later with Mom, I had to admit that all the reasons I had decided to trust this guy could have been fabricated. It’s true that people bent on evil go to great lengths to appear trustworthy. It’s true that this small town, where it’s hard to find a stranger, is much like other places where unexpected crimes are committed. It’s true that it’s somewhat my nature to take risks.

But it’s also true that the art of being neighborly is an endangered item and needs to be preserved. Mom has a well worn sign on the freezer in her garage “Let all beings be filled with kindness and compassion for one another.” All beings. Filled. I think we’ve got a way to go.

What is one thing I could do, right away, to be a kinder, more compassionate person to a neighbor?

A Vow to Soften

I did not write this. It came to me from a friend and was written by Rachel Macy Stafford.  I found words in it to make my own.  I think there is something here for everyone to take to heart.  Read and see if I’m right.

 

My Vow to Soften

I’ve had enough of my hard edges.

I’m tired of straining my voice.

I’d like to loosen up and laugh a little more,

Be a positive rather than a negative.

 

I’d like to feel the upward curve of my lips.

I’d like to surrender control of things in which I have no control.

I’d like to let things unfold in their own time, in their own way.

I’d like to participate joyfully in this fleeting life.

 

I’d like to be softer

Towards him,

Towards her,

Towards me.

 

And this is my vow:

I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.

I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.

 

I vow to hand over the hairbrush, the pile of laundry, the school project,

The task before us. “How would you do it?” I will ask.

I vow to step aside and respect a new approach.

Success might be difficult to see at first; I vow to keep looking.

I vow to be more accepting of quirks and mannerisms.

I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.

 

I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way.

And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.

 

I vow to regard “weaknesses” as hidden strengths.

Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve”.

 

I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile, no matter what happened yesterday.

Grudge holding only hurts us all.

I vow to pause before correcting.

I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to be mentioned at all.

I vow to stop nitpicking until it bleeds.

I vow to demand less and inquire more.

 

I vow to listen

Consider

And expand my thinking.

 

I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.

I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.

I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday – a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.

 

 

I vow to be softer towards the imperfect human being inside me and beside me.

 

By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.

At last I will fully see.

I will see his colors.

I will see her colors.

I will see my colors.

Perhaps for the very first time.

 

The colors might take my breath away,

Bring me to tears

And offer long-awaited peace.

 

I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.

I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine.

 

©Rachel Macy Stafford 2016

 

 

 

 

Those Standout Moments

a happy wave of nostalgia
a happy wave of nostalgia

Don’t you know there are those times that become prominent, for one reason or another, and they stick in your mind like something that sparkles, or maybe like a flashing red light? My mind only has so much room in it and normally I want to save that space for stuff I’m really going to need, so one of the things I like to do is ask for God’s watchfulness over my mind each day.  I want him to be in charge of what looms large and what goes by the way. He knows me and he does a good job.

Three things that have been standout (is that a word?) moments recently:

This week there was a community garage sale in the neighborhood where one of my clients lives. My cousin and her husband shop these events and are masters at finding interesting things. They were at my client’s house when I arrived and started talking about what bargains they had scored.  Jerry had bought a large jar (water cooler size) full of marbles. Unbeknownst to most people, I have a inner fondness for marbles that I can’t explain, except that it reminds me of happy childhood times.  Kids today don’t know that you can get hours of fun and interaction with other people through marbles. They are antiques. When the snow would melt in the spring, our school grounds became pocked with marble holes and each recess was time to either lose or gain valuable marbles depending on your skill. Each long bus ride was a constant barter of boulders of various kinds, games of “odds or evens”. There was a whole language built around marbles, most of which I cannot remember now. I had a precious collection that I would hide around the house (because I had brothers). I don’t know what became of that bag of cat’s eyes and purees – did I outgrow my interest or did I lose them, forget where I’d hid them? Jerry took me out to his car and gave me some marbles and I felt like treasure had come home to me.  A standout moment.

Yesterday there was a knock on the door.  A young man I have known since he was an adolescent was standing there, wiping the sweat off his head because he had come on his bike and it was a warm day. The last few years I haven’t heard from him often – pretty much only when he needs money, which was why he had come this time too. He was moving north, taking a bus.  His mom had given him the money for the ticket which was all she could afford. She felt he needed to start new in a different place, but he had nothing for the trip. I listened to his story, we talked about his inability to thrive in spite of his talent, we talked about the faint odor of alcohol he exuded.  I don’t know where God is taking him – or just letting him go – but I felt kindness was required of me.  I gave him money. He let me pray for him and tearfully asked if I would continue to pray for him every day.  I made a promise.  This moment needs to standout so that I can keep that promise.

My inbox is constantly chiming at me because I’m permanently attached to my phone. Most of what comes in is junk mail, just like my old fashioned “snail mail” box.  But this morning there was a note from a family member.  Two sentences of sweet encouragement, which prove to me how much we can do to keep each other going forward.  Thank you MP, for acting on an impulse that was God inspired, no doubt. I love you too.

Three moments out of many that I could have included. Three is a good number and as I said, God does a good job of giving me things to think about and remember.