It’s what neighbors do

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A neighbor died this week.

How he lived his life and how he eventually died are not my story to tell.

I didn’t really know this man that died but I saw him almost every day because he lived at the end of my driveway in a small shack and near the end, in his car.

I know his brother, but I never took the time to get to know him.

So the truth is simple. 

I’m filled with some sort of guilt and remorse, as I sit down to write my thoughts. 

I feel like a bad neighbor and terrible human.

We all live life our own way. He chose his way.

We all have the freedom to make decisions that affect us and those around us. Sometimes those decisions lead to addictions and those addictions destroy us. Sometimes it’s fast but most times, it’s a slow, painful drawn-out death. A lingering pain, that stays even after you pass, in the minds of your family. 

Sometimes those around you, even your neighbors, see you everyday and watch you slowly destroy yourself and wonder why you do it. Sometimes all that is left after you are gone, are your unpaid property tax bills and the trash you felt was valuable. Left behind for your family to clean up as a modern way of mourning and healing. 

I stood there with his brother, who was wearing a tank top in 30 degree weather, filling up a dumpster and doing what he could to keep moving, keep positive and keep focused. 

Another neighbor pulled up and rolled down his passenger window. The story of the passing was shared. The driver expressed his condolences and said he brought “Christmas Dinner” down to him. The brother thanked him loudly and strongly. I could tell that it made him feel good hearing that news. 

I just looked down at my shoes. 

I never brought him dinner, Christmas or otherwise. 

But that isn’t the only thing that was bothering me. 

What bothered me most, is that I didn’t know who this nice neighbor was. 

At all.

I have been so focused on the economic health of our community that I forgot about our own neighborhood. 

Sure, I know several, maybe even most as many of you are “friends” here on FB as well, and can attest to that. 

But lately…

Truth be told, I have been down on the new neighbors.

Because they park RV’s in my office parking lot without asking and steal my electricity. 

Because they put up fences around pastures to hide their pot farms. (It’s the law to have a fence and the pot farm is legal – but putting up walls in the country is just another example of an unintended consequence) 

Because they move here from California and build mcMansions and want all of us to change to suit their needs. 

Because the people we have known for over 25 years in our neighborhood are moving away or dying and their homes are being invaded by drug crazed lunatics. 

What ever the reason, it doesn’t matter. 

I sat quietly through dinner upset at myself and looking for something to help me though this.

When I got up to clear the table and put items back in the fridge, I saw a sign.

A neighbor has invited us to his annual model train open house. Right there on the fridge being held up by a crazy Chinese magnet from Boone, was the invite. 

He opens his house once a year for all the neighbors to come and see his huge model train exhibit and each other. 

It’s what neighbors do.

It has been several years since I have been able to go and yet I love model trains. 

I looked at the date and sighed. I have so much to do that day. So much work to catch up on. Board meetings to prepare for. Surveys to send out. So many businesses that are screaming for my attention. 

I sat down and started looking for an apartment in Japan. It’s one of the quirky things I do when I need to think. 

My mind started wandering and I remembered something. 

The other day it was snowing and our doorbell rang. No one ever rings our doorbell. No one ever comes all the way up to the house. And it was snowing. I think it was New Years day because I went outside and said “Happy New Year” and was surprised that it was a neighbor.  A neighbor that has never been to our house before. 

She was letting me know that our cows and donkeys escaped. 

It’s what neighbors do.

I thanked her, told her to watch her step on our stairs and hurried back inside and told the family to suit up. We had a rescue mission to go on. (I love animal rescue missions BTW)

After we got down to the barn, we knew it wasn’t our donkey and cow, but we knew who they belonged to. 

We let a neighbor use our pasture for the winter and they escaped. We called him and he was an hour away in Grants Pass and the sun was going down so we went hunting with a sense of urgency. 

Since it was snowing, it was easy to track them. Kind of. We were afraid that they were heading down to the office and worse, the hiway. We lost their tracks about half way to the office and after backtracking we found them alive and well. 

Happily grazing on some pasture grass at our neighbors house. We locked them in the pen (we were so lucky that they all went into the abandoned pen to graze). We also got permission from the owner of the pasture and thanked him for his kindness and help then we called the owner and told him where to find his animals. Our job was done. I let the neighbors know who let us know that the animals were safe and thanked them for letting us know. 

It’s what neighbors do.

Just like our UPS driver, who is also a neighbor, who offers to drive a package to the house, because it’s a green house I ordered for Dena for Christmas and he thinks that it’s too heavy for me to carry. 

It’s what neighbors do. 

Just like our neighbor with a tractor who asks if he can help Dena lay some culvert when we see him at ShopNCart. 

It’s what neighbors do.

Just like the gathering we held at the lake to BBQ and enjoy life and pay tribute to a neighbor who lost the battle with cancer. 

It’s what neighbors do.

I’m remembering all of this and realizing how blessed and lucky I am. How I live in the country surrounded by amazing humans that are wonderful neighbors. 

I’m going to find a way to go to the train open house and say hi to old neighbors and hopefully meet some new ones too.

I’m going to throw an open house at our office this summer and invite all the neighbors. 

I’m going to get to know all the new neighbors and I’m going to find the guy that brought Christmas Dinner down and invite him and his family over for dinner to say thank you.

It’s what neighbors do.

And one night, when the sky is filled with stars and the river is flowing loudly, I will light a candle in front of the shack where my neighbor died. I will say a prayer and maybe even read a story or two and ask his spirit for forgiveness for my selfishness and lack of humanity and I will let the candle burn itself out, leaving me in draped in darkness and peace, with hope that he is in a better place now. 

It’s what neighbors do.

* A Note from Jim : FB showed off this memory today. I re-read it and all of the comments it made me think hard about my life again. I’m sharing it here for you hoping that it inspires you like it does me. Happy New Year! 

By Jim Teece

I wrote this on January 4, 2017 and posted it on Facebook. 

150 friends reacted to it and 45 took time to write a comment.

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