Friday, September 21, 2007

God's Day in the Neighborhood (Part 1)

My dear next-door-neighbor and friend, Jean, passed away this week. She was 85 years old. We would often talk over the side-wall that runs between our homes. Sometimes we would sit and talk in her kitchen. She always had time for me.

Jean's passing has awakened the neighborhood. Suddenly the neighbors are talking with one another. Even tonight, the door bell rang. It was Tim, who lives across the street, bringing us directions to the service. My husband and 2 other neighbors have been asked to be pall bearers. Afterwards there will be a reception in Jean's backyard.

We have one home in the neighborhood who everyone complains about. The man who lives there doesn't keep his place up. He has a drinking problem. But he has known Jean since he was a young man. Jean has often told me about his history. She knew his parents, before they both passed away. She said they were quite irregular parents. Now Ben lives alone there, but not in the house. The house is a shell...because he started remodeling/rebuilding it and ran out of money. So now Ben, about age 65, lives in the little back house. Ben would also make his way over to Jean's from time to time to sit in her kitchen. The neighbors do not like Ben. They complain about him and call the city to come and make him clean up his property.

I was standing in the street with Jean's daughter, when she was telling Ben that her mother passed away. I could see the sadness on Ben's face and I heard myself inviting him to come ride with my husband and I to the memorial service. His face brightened and he thanked me heartily.

Yesterday when I saw Ben, he said, "God Bless You." Ben doesn't attend church, and he doesn't strike me as religious. But I have often prayed for I have a son who is going through difficult I'm sure Ben did, when he was young. But Ben fell through the cracks...somehow...perhaps no one to support and help him through the rough waters...and he ended up on the wrong path. Compassion. I feel compassion. Maybe I'm feeling God's compassion...not mine.

As various neighbors have found out that Ben is coming...and riding in our car, they stammer a bit and roll their eyes. Even my husband wasn't thrilled.

So tomorrow should be an interesting day. I feel its the Lord's day...his day to work in the neighborhood. I'll let you know how it goes.


Beach Girl said...

Even if we have neat and tidy homes and no drinking problem, we all have been a Ben before the Lord got to us and cleaned us up.

Thank you for inviting him, recognizing that he too is a child of God. Bless you for reaching out to the "reject" in your neighborhood. Jesus would have done the same thing.


Haus Frau said...

I found your blog by way of Vanessa's.

As to Ben...God bless you sweetly in extending a hand to draw him in. I'm sure this made his heart swell and gave him a glimmer of hope.

I'd love to read how the service and reception turned out.

Dawn said...

What a great post. It's good to live in a neighborhood where people know each other. I hope they look at Ben differently after this.

JAM said...

Sorry you lost a friend. And that's a wonderful thing to ask Ben to go with you to the service.

Susan Kelly Skitt said...

If only more of us reached out to the Ben's in this world... thank you. Jean sounds like a she lived a life of compassion. You are too my friend. How beautiful. I'm going to read your next post now.

Becky Wolfe said...

You will be blessed for finding compassion for a man like Ben. Sorry to hear of your friend's passing!

Jane Rumph said...

Your great story about Ben speaks to me, because we have a situation on our block where a new resident has turned his front yard into a repository for broken-down restaurant equipment and other junk. He seems like a nice young guy when we talk with him, but nothing has changed in several weeks. Some neighbors have called the city code enforcement to report him.

Meanwhile, this past Monday morning the fall neighborhood Bible study began. Since early 2002, this group has met for typically three studies per year, taking off during the summer and end-of-year holidays. Another woman hosts, and I lead the discussions. As I have done in the past, I circulated an invitation to every home on the block a couple of weeks in advance.

As we gathered that morning, some of the usual attenders began catching up on news from the summer. The topic of our new neighbor came up, along with critical comments on the state of his front yard. A few minutes later, guess who showed up at the door to join the study!

I trust he didn't notice our red faces. We welcomed him. He had brought his Bible, and he participated in both the discussion and the prayers afterwards. His prayer "in Jesus' name" sounded very sincere. I hope he comes back next week.

God is teaching me not to judge people's character by external evidence that may be unrelated to the kind of person they are. I don't know what reasons my neighbor might have for not yet doing something about his junk pile, but I want to be forgiving and compassionate in the process of seeking resolution. I think this kind of approach would get better results anyway.

It seems almost ironic that our topical Bible study for this fall is focused on "caring for physical needs"--including needs for practical help. Instead of being confrontational, maybe our group could offer to haul things away for him--or at least help move them into his back yard!

Sharon Lynne said...

Thanks for sharing your story Jane.

We sometimes don't really know who our neighbors are...on the inside...until we get to know them.

God only sees the inside.