A Story of Encouragement from a Neighbor

When I set out to write today, this isn’t what I had in mind, but I just received a call from a neighbor a few minutes ago. I don’t know her very well. Actually, I know barely anything about her other than 1) she’s my neighbor 2) I know her name 3) she drives a white SUV. She first introduced herself around this time last year after realizing someone was living in this old, abandoned-looking house. At the time, I had been outside working in the yard with my daughter strapped to my back. We chatted for a few minutes, and then she continued on her errand.

A couple of months later, she noticed that our mailbox wasn’t fastened like it’s supposed to and instead was leaning on a bush. A snow truck had knocked it over, and we just hadn’t gotten around to fixing it because well… life kept happening. Also, I didn’t really know how to. But she stopped by one day and gave me the number to the city so that they would come out and fix it since they were the ones who had broken it (the same had happened to hers). We also exchanged our numbers in the event that one of us needed anything.

Once the coronavirus hit, she texted me a couple of times to make sure we were ok and then I would check up on them. Today was a similar situation. Once again, our house looks a little on the abandoned side. While I had been able to get out about a month ago and clean up the yard, I’ve been unwell basically ever since then and haven’t had the energy to get out there. So, our house looks overgrown and abandoned… I hate it, and I’m hoping to get to it now that I’m feeling better, but it’s pretty noticeable.

Well, it is noticeable enough that today, my neighbor called me. She asked if everything was ok and if perhaps we had moved. I said no, I just hadn’t been feeling well and had been unable to get to the yard. She told me she was having a similar issue, and her yard (or the heat, really) was getting the better of her. She also asked how my daughter was doing, how old she was now, just seeing how we were. 

Then, without preamble, she began to pray for me. It was like her next breath. She prayed that the Lord would watch over me and my family, especially with all that has been going on. She said a few more things after that, and then we said goodbye.

Her words, and her past actions, have really touched my heart. Perhaps some would take her as being a little nosey, but I don’t. I am a pretty private person, but I love that she cares. My neighbor is a neighbor, and the first real one that I have had in over a decade. She doesn’t know me well, but she notices, she cares, she checks up on people and helps them in the ways that she can. Sometimes that is a phone number; sometimes, it is a short prayer. But she took the time to open her heart and make sure her neighbors were ok. That is something special. That is something neighbors, a community, used to do. That is what the Church is supposed to be.

There is a lot of chaos in the world right now. There is a lot of hurt, anger, and mistrust seeping into every corner of our lives. We already live in something of individual bubbles, and this virus and the shutdowns have only made that isolation worse. People often are very “me-centered,” and that is understandable. Taking care of “me” is easy. It’s normal and expected. Caring for others, noticing what we don’t want to is undesired. And reaching out to people who need help, love, care, and understanding seems like just a step too far. Like, what if they don’t need it, or want it? Is it really my job? 

I know I struggle with this. Often, I feel so wrapped up in my own problems and worries that I forget that others need my help and care too. Or rather, I just don’t want to. I’m too tired, too busy, too frustrated, too much in pain and worry. It’s a laziness of the heart if not of the body. I’m learning, and trying to see what it means to “follow in His steps,” but I’m hardly there yet.

But what are we called to do in the Church? What is an example of how we should care for our neighbors? How should we treat those around us at all times?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Now I know this verse is not exactly talking about checking up on your neighbors. I suppose I could have talked about the good Samaritan for that. But this is the first verse that came to mind after my neighbor’s call. I also noticed how much that is not, in fact, what we are doing. We are more wrapped up in something else than to take the time to reach out and encourage those around us, even if they are as close as our neighbors.

There is a lot of tearing people down and discouraging going on right now. There is a lot of dividing, and people are causing mistrust among those who should be brothers. But in all that, there was one woman who took time out of her day to call a neighbor and pray for them, even though she had faced struggles. I am sure she is also concerned about all the chaos going on in today’s world. But she encouraged me and let me know she was there to help if I needed it. She offered help and sought it from the Helper, who helps us in all our times of need. She was a true neighbor, an example of what the Church should look like.

We keep fighting each other and discouraging one another. We get so caught up in the details that we forget what we are actually dealing with: people. People need love and care and help. We need encouragement. We need communities, neighbors, and friends, those who love and care for us. We need to be the people who love and care for others! We need to build up communities that build up each other rather than tear them down. Otherwise, we will be destroyed.

But I don’t want to focus on that. Instead, I want to focus on the loving example of one woman who made this little corner of the world a little bit brighter, a woman who has the love of Christ in her and lets that light shine right where she is. She has clearly taken to heart building others up and caring for others, and I hope that is an example and an encouragement we can all take with us into our daily lives.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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