Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Note to Self: Practice What You Preach!

A few days ago I got a little wake up call about how far my practice of loving my neighbor is from my ideal.

We've had winter, real winter, in Louisville this year.  Biting cold, many snows, an ice storm, complete with power outages, last night.  We had our last snow a few nights ago, Super Bowl Sunday.  It was a beautiful nighttime snow.  I slept in my living room, just so every time I woke up in the night, I'd have the chance to see the snowfall lit up from the streetlight outside my window.

The next morning I was supposed to go to a breakfast.  I woke up, got ready, but as I looked out my window, all I wanted to do was go out and be in the snow.  The urge actually was to shovel it.  So I emailed the organizers of the breakfast to say I wouldn't be there (and learned later in the day that it had been cancelled anyway), put on my coat and boots and went outside.

I started to shovel.  Down my steps, down my walk, over towards my neighbors' house.  These neighbors have a dog who often squeezes between slats in the fence and winds up in my yard.  I should mention that he can squeeze between the slats because there are a few that came loose.  That I didn't hammer up again. They lay on the ground for, well, I'm not sure how long.  Too long, for sure. One slat has gone missing.  A few weeks ago I noticed that the slats I had neglected to put back up were affixed to the fence again.  I can only guess that it was my neighbors who did it.  Because of the missing slat, the dog can still get through, but I know my neighbors have done what they can to prevent it.  They fixed the fence without complaining to me about not doing it or alerting me to the fact that they had.

Remembering the fact that they took care of an issue I should have, I shoveled their walk.  Then I turned in the other direction with my shovel.  Early this winter after a snow, I encountered the woman who lives next door standing on her porch, grimacing at what she saw.  She has strong feelings about winter.  She's not a fan.

Remembering her deep dislike of the cold and snow, remembering the fact that she wanted to be finished with winter at least a month ago, I decided to shovel that walk, too, so she wouldn't have to spend any more time outside than necessary.  Last spring when she and her boyfriend moved in, they reached out to me - on several occasions they invited me to parties at their house; they even offered to help me clean my gutters. These neighbors walk the walk of loving their neighbor far better than I.  Shoveling their walk seemed a good opportunity to practice what I preach.

While I was working on their walk, I noticed another neighbor a few doors down using a small garden shovel to clear her sidewalk.  I went down and started shoveling with her.  We got to talking.  Her boyfriend is a mailman and she said the first thing he did when he got up that day was to clear his walk for the mail carrier who'd be delivering to his house.  She wanted to do the same for our mailman.

I've lived in my house almost 10 years, live 3 doors down from her, and I've never talked to her before.

She told me her name and what she does.  I did the same.  By the end of the conversation, she'd invited me to come drink margaritas on her porch some evening when it's warmer outside.  I'll take her up on the offer.

I talk the talk of reaching out and loving my neighbor.  I named this blog "Love Thy Neighbor" to hold myself accountable to doing so. Often I practice it better when I am not actually in my neighborhood (= country).  This is problematic, since I am in my neighborhood/country much more than I am out of it.

Thankfully, I'm surrounded by people who love others far better than I... in my actual neighborhood, at work, in my family, among my friends, in my church community.  Those examples help me to see what I aspire to be and do.

I think I got it right a few days ago.  I can think of at least one time I failed yesterday.  And now another. I hope I got something right today (though nothing of note comes to mind in either the success or failure category).

Each day is a new day to try practicing what I preach.

Thank God.