“Do you want me to go back and exchange it?” the teenager asked.
Suddenly the elder of the two broke into a huge grin. “You know what? We’re getting it all for free anyway! It doesn’t matter!” she said, and the two of them laughed delightedly.
I looked at her expectantly for the explanation that was sure to follow.
“Somebody gave us a van yesterday, and $200 in grocery gift cards!” Noting my surprised look she went on to say, “I take care of severely handicapped kids - the kind on machines and in wheelchairs…the ones that need a lot of help. And my old van broke down recently. I haven’t had a vehicle in weeks! Yesterday a church donated one to me, and it’s wonderful!” She went on to tell me that although it was fourteen years old it ran great and had many features that their old vehicle lacked. It was an incredible blessing, and then there was the money to help with her food bill on top of it all. She was clearly over the moon about her good fortune.
When I hit the total button, usually a bad moment in the checkout line, she was overjoyed all over again. “Look at that! We have enough left for next week‘s bill, as well!” When her groceries were bagged she thanked me, her non-stop smile still in place, and started to push her loaded cart towards the door. Something had been stirring in my brain while we talked, however, and as she left I stopped her with a sudden question, asking if she lived on a certain street several miles out of town. When she answered in the affirmative, her eyes wide, I described a house and its location at the end of the road, where it meets the highway. Again she nodded.
“I’m your neighbor!” I told her, explaining that I lived a mile up the road on the other side. As we had been talking earlier I’d remembered a story I’d read in the paper about a family that welcomed disabled children into their home, despite the incredible amount of work involved in caring for them and the pain of losing them when they eventually succumbed to their medical challenges. In fact, it was the name of our road mentioned in the newspaper article that initially caught my eye, and I realized after reading about them that that we were living near some very special people indeed. She told me she was almost sixty years old, an age when most people start thinking of retirement and living for themselves for awhile, and yet she found she couldn’t stop taking these kids in. It delighted me to finally meet her and to hear that she who gives help had received the same from somebody else.
Despite the proximity of my house to hers, it was the people in the church who came alongside her and assisted her who were her true neighbors, a word that defines the position of a heart more than the location of a house. No matter where we live, we are all surrounded by very special people, gifted in different ways and unable to quit functioning in them. We move into their neighborhood spiritually speaking when our hearts are stirred with compassion for the things that move theirs and we find ways to help them get done what they’ve been called to do.
Some of us have been living in the same place for a long time. The good news is that it’s not too late to move. There’s surely a good neighborhood near you with people just waiting…needing…for you to notice the vacancy. Move on up today.
“Give, and it shall be given to you, good measure pressed down and shaken together and running over, they shall give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you measure, it shall be measured to you again.”
(Luke 6:38 MKJV)
(Luke 6:38 MKJV)