Now that I am in a Kindness mania – and is there a better mania to be in? – I was reminded by a reader of the importance of being a good neighbor.
I don’t believe I have listed neighborly kindnesses, except in the sense that we are all neighbors.
But I should mention the kindness of neighbors in the strict definition of the word. The people who live nearby. Those who you know by name. Maybe your kids play together. Maybe you’ve shared the same street for years. Maybe there is an old person on your street who knew you when you were riding a tricycle.
Those people who may not be your closest friends – but they live the closest. And they are there for you.
The neighbor across the street from Mom is one. This is a case where the old lady is my mother, and she remembers the little boy on the tricycle. He has kids of his own now. He shovels her driveway now.
And there’s our neighbor who came up to our house a few months ago, because we were fifty miles away when our security alarm went off. He waited for the police and made sure everything was okay, and called us on the road to reassure us.
I also had a neighbor years ago who called to check on me one day, because she saw my car in the yard when I never, never, ever took a sick day. I had the flu, and it was kind of nice that someone noticed.
And there was the woman who opened her door to our little cat who was being chased by a very vicious dog. This same woman spent a hot summer afternoon pulling weeds in our garden, because hers was finished and she just felt like doing some more.
But here is my favorite Neighborly Kindness:
Several years ago, my husband had a job that required him to travel quite a bit. At least once a month, he’d be gone from Thursday through Sunday. He always worried about me … actually, let’s make that the present tense… He always worries about me, and so made sure the neighbors knew when he’d be gone, so that they could watch out for me when I was alone.
At the time we had an eccentric black cat by the name of Casper. Yeah, black. Yeah, Casper. Everyone always expected him to be white, considering his name. But it’s a long story. I’ve written about him once before (Stranger Than Fiction), and should probably do at least one more post to describe what it is like to live with a feline with OCD.
On one of my husband’s traveling days, I was home alone. Casper was outside and I had not been able to coax him in. He loved being outdoors in all weather, and this was a beautiful summer night, so he was prepared to sit in the yard until midnight.
I was watching television, and all of a sudden there were blood-curdling screeches out in the yard. I ran to the door and saw that Casper was having a huge fight with the neighbor’s cat Tigger.
There was no way I was getting in the middle of it, but I had to stop them. For one thing, Casper had gotten beat up before. He was a smallish cat, and brave but not strong. (I remember after one particular defeat, the vet said, “Well, he’s no coward; he’s all beat up on his face, but no injuries to his butt. He didn’t retreat.”) And Tigger was one mean S.O.B. As a matter of fact, I was terrified of Tigger myself.
On the kitchen table was a box full of paperback books that I had intended to donate to the library. So I grabbed the box and ran out to the porch, and started throwing the books at the fighting cats.
“STOP IT!” I screamed and threw a book.
“STOP!! STOP!!” I screamed and threw and threw and screamed.
And then up the driveway was the most crazy sight.
Having heard me scream, two of the neighbors were running up to the house with shovels raised. Short, old, overweight guys with shovels! Coming to save me!
It was exactly like that climactic scene in the movie “Witness” where all the Amish people come over the crest of the hill to save Harrison Ford.
Those two men were willing to fight for me, not even knowing what they may have to fight.
And I said, “It’s Over, Tigger!” – just like Harrison Ford.
And I never felt so safe.
I love those guys.