Neighborhoods have all sorts of people. In any area you will find
folks who are nice, those who barely interact at all, even the occasional bad
Happy neighbors are the heart of anyplace. They're easy to spot, waving hello to
others, and stopping for a bit of conversation before going on their way. You
will sometimes see them carrying a covered dish to another home, and may notice
others stopping by their homes for a while. At twilight, you will often see two
or three of them on the sidewalk exchanging a pleasant word about the weather,
or perhaps a hint for pruning a particular plant.
The saddest folks are the insulated ones, yet they too are quite visible. Just
watch them walking their dogs, whilst talking into cell phones, not even
allowing for the possibility of interaction. Whenever the power goes out, they
are the ones standing alone, arms akimbo, wondering about what's going on, but
not engaging in conversation about the common problem. In an emergency, they
only call 911 or a relative across town, rather than getting immediate help from
Then, alas, there are bad neighbors: the ones with messy yards, barking dogs, or
who give parties which disturb the peace. The rest of us shake our heads over
the problem, stay away, and hope they will move. It is east to see them as
community nuisances, rather than people.
This brings me to an incident last week, when I had taken Wagsy the Chihuahua
out for his midday constitutional. At the corner of our street was a very large
flatbed tow truck. The driver was busy attaching chains to a pickup truck, a
procedure which seemed to fascinate Wagsy, so we stood a moment to watch.
Of course, I was curious, and wondered to whom the vehicle belonged. It wasn't
difficult to tell. Just behind the truck to be towed stood a tall man with naked
pain on his face. He stared in obvious misery at the proceedings, occasionally
looking down at a piece of paper in his hands.
My heart went out to him in sympathy, as I watched. No, I didn't say a thing,
just sent a silent wish of good will. Although this sad event was taking place
in public, it was not the time for a chat.
A moment later, the tow operator finished the hookup, and went to start his
truck. The owner hung his head, and started slowly home. It was then I realized
it was my bad neighbor. I tried to harden my heart, but was unable to do so.
Although this was someone unpleasant, I found myself praying for his well-being
during my stroll home.
No, this is not someone with whom I would wish to be acquainted; the
neighborhood grievances against him are too great. However, for a brief moment,
I was able to see past those, and into our common humanity. It was an important
This week, his truck was back home. I do not know why it was taken, or whether
that was deserved. It doesn't matter. When someone is in pain, that is the only
thing of consequence. We must pray for their relief. Compassion is a gift to the
world, and we are all poorer, should we fail to feel it.