Ok, yep, that really happened.
One of the unexpected results of walking nearly every day for a year or so, is that I’ve gotten to know my neighbors.
That certainly wasn’t the plan. At all.
I’m an introvert. I am happiest in my little, tiny house, by myself. Oh, mind you, I can work a room, when necessary. I can be the extrovert, if forced into it. But, overall, I am satisfied with my introvertedness. Give me that one bedroom cabin in Montana, under the big sky, and I’m good to go. As long as I have access to Amazon Prime and UPS to bring me my books. That would be the one requirement.
And, for a few years, due to events in life, my introvertedness kicked into overdrive. I work from home, and there were literally weeks when I did not leave this house, for anything, except food or toilet paper–and then only if we were desperate. Hermit status.
In fact, one of the hardest things in getting restarted with exercising at the beginning, was I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone seeing me out there walking; or, heaven forbid, any of my neighbors stopping me to talk. In fact, for months and months, I would walk just to the edge of a fellow church member’s house, then turn around. I was embarrassed that I was so out of shape, and the idea of a conversation was taxing.
But, slowly that has changed. Now, most of my neighbors know me. And I know them. I don’t know their names, though I am starting to work on that some, but I know them. I know the:
- 70-year-old man who flies past me nearly every day jogging, and who tells me to not quit (he makes me look like a slug)
- Family who either own or work for Sea Tow, with all their trucks that have “Sea Tow” painted on the sides
- The woman in her early 60’s, with 2 big dogs, who likes to sit on her screened porch and drink coffee in the mornings
- The dad who, every day, without fail, walked his middle school daughter to the bus stop, with their big yellow dog
- The pastor and his wife of the church I live behind, who are so friendly and encouraging
- The senior adult who lives across the street from me, who is wheel chair bound and has 24/7 in-home nursing
- My church member friends, who I know I could contact if there was ever an emergency (such as when my air conditioning in the house went out)
- The gentleman who gives me produce from his garden and who asks me nearly every day why I walk so much
- The three senior adult ladies, with their 3 sweet dogs. Barney is the name of one of them. One is a white poodle. One is a mutt.
At first, I couldn’t look at any of these folks, let alone acknowledge them. But slowly I started to glance at them; mainly because I was curious. Then I returned a wave or two, and now–well, now I feel like they are friends. Kind of.
This morning, as I headed toward Back Creek road, I came upon one of my senior adult friends–with her puppy, the white poodle one. But I could tell something was wrong. She looked distraught, and the poor little puppy looked pathetic.
I stopped and we started to talk. And I found my soul breaking for her. Over her dog, of all things.
The poodle (she told me the name this morning, I just can’t remember right now. Which is pathetic, as you will see in a moment…) had a pink band-aid wrapped around his thin leg, and she told me that the band-aid was to hold the catheter in place. Yep, a catheter. The little doggy’s kidneys were not doing well. Cancer. And, she was so heartbroken.
We talked for at least 20 minutes. She told me all about her puppy, how long she’d had him (11 years), where she had gotten him, what companionship the puppy had been. She then told me that she knew it would be her last dog forever, because her husband doesn’t like dogs, and so she has decided she will not get another one after this one. She was nearly in tears. And the little doggy just sat in her arms, shaking.
We talked about other things as well–she asked me if I went to the church that I live behind, and I told her no, that I attend the Baptist church down the road. She asked about my kids; how long I’ve lived in Seaford. And then we came around to her dog again.
And, that’s when I heard words come out of my mouth that I never expected to ever say.
“Can I pray for your dog?”
I’m still not entirely sure where that came from.
I still feel really, really odd about it. Hugely odd.
But, for some reason, in that moment, it seemed to be the right thing to do.
I take prayer very seriously. Very seriously. Mostly because I don’t understand it very well. But also because I feel it is a weighty responsibility. I only pray for a small handful of folks; my kids first and foremost, and then a small group of others–friends, family, a co-worker. But the number is small. However, I pray furiously for that group of people. Earnestly. Prayer is very important to me.
So that is one reason why the words surprised me when they came out of mouth. And, honestly, it’s a dog. I love my dog, Biscuit. But I’ve never considered praying for her.
But talking with my neighbor, and seeing the look in her eyes, and hearing her voice–it just seemed like the right thing to do. So I did.
It was short and awkward and odd. I put my hand on that dog and muttered something akin to “God, please help ________ (and see, I can’t even remember the name, that’s ridiculous) to get better. Thank you for our pets, they are such a comfort to us. Amen.”
That was it.
She thanked me and wiped away a tear, and then we awkwardly laughed a little and she asked me where I work (from home, INTROVERT), she gave me a little hug and thanked me, and we went on our way.
I still feel strange about it.
But, here’s the thing I keep coming back to:
My neighborhood is full of hurts and needs. Yours is too. Doesn’t matter if you live in a gated community with million dollar homes, or if your house is in the inner city with drug deals going on in the alley behind it. Your neighborhood has needs. My neighborhood has needs. And I can be so incredibly selfish at times and sit in this house and could absolutely care less about the world around me. I do that well.
But that’s not what I am called to do. It’s the stuff of 1 John 3:17-18:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
I am not a very compassionate person, at all. I can be very hard-hearted and cynical. I am guilty of this: “….yet closes his heart against him…” Compassion is not my forte. And I can sit in this house all day long, selfishly going about my life and caring nothing for the hurting young mom across the street. Or the curmudgeon down the road, sitting alone on his porch. Or the shopowner trying to survive on little business. Or the teenager sulking in his backyard as he mows. Or the neighbor kid with the terrible attitude. All day; I am so good at being so blind to the world.
Or, I can quit preaching and teaching and writing and talking about love (“let us not love in word or talk”) and get off my butt and start loving in deed and in truth. Meeting practical needs. Mowing the yard. Sharing groceries. Showing compassion–real compassion, not shallow, not false.
And sharing truth–that God is real, that He sees and knows, that He is our only hope.
And maybe praying for dogs. On occasion.