When we moved into our new neighborhood, more than six years ago, no one came over to welcome us or to even introduce themselves. We watched as people moved in and then moved out of our neighborhood, and most of them left without us ever knowing their names. We did eventually meet and acquire the names of a handful of our neighbors, but for the most part we only knew most of those around us by what we saw. There was the “single-mother neighbor,” the “crazy neighbor,” and the “party neighbors,” etc. One Christmas, after years of just good intentions, I finally baked cookies for about 10 of our surrounding neighbors. As I delivered the cookies, packaged nicely in cheap but festive containers (with a Christmas card attached), I introduced myself and learned the real names of my neighbors. John, formerly known as the “crazy neighbor,” seemed the most appreciative of my holiday gesture.
One week later my wife and I were hurrying around so we could celebrate Christmas once our son arrived at our house. As I met my son in the driveway, to help him unload his car, I noticed John standing outside across the street a few doors down from his house. He was inquisitively looking at a couch sitting on the sidewalk with a “free” sign attached. He picked up one end of the couch and then immediately set it back down. He then just stared intently at the piece of furniture. I really wanted to ignore the situation as I walked towards our front door. I was all dressed up and eager to begin our planned festivities for Pete’s sake! However, I felt my body come to a sudden stop, and I heard myself telling my son, “go on inside, and let your mother know that I will be outside doing my ‘Christian duty’.”
I soon approached John and asked him if I could be of any assistance. He explained to me how he was attempting to figure out the best way of transporting the heavy couch to his house. He had thought about using a floor jack, to raise it up and into the back of his truck, or possibly using a dolly except that he didn’t have one of those. John also informed me of his many health issues which included a bad back. I told him not to worry, and after enlisting my son’s help we carried the furniture back to his house and placed it in his living room. We then put his old couch in the backyard for him. The “new” addition wasn’t in the best of shape, but it was better than what he currently had. John was once again very appreciative, almost shocked even, that we took the time to help a neighbor in need. He insisted we meet his wife, who was in the back bedroom under the care of Hospice, and he informed her of what we had done for him. That day I was reminded that everybody has a story, and every neighbor has a name.