Sunday, July 22, 2007


I haven't done much blogging of late -- been traveling some and tending my own garden a good bit. Indeed, I've been thinking that I ought to share both some photos and some reflections on such tending. Then this evening, as I was out watering said garden, a fire engine and rescue vehicle pulled up our quiet street. This is not particularly unusual, as we live just down the hill from a station and they sometimes run the trucks up our way -- perhaps for practice.
But this time they stopped right in front of our house. I was pretty sure nothing was on fire, but having the fire department stop in front of the house does give one pause. They were here to tend to a neighbor across the street -- a middle-aged man in poor health with diabetes and kidney issues.
We met him some months after we moved in four years ago, but only after many months of scornfully referring to him as "boat man" because he kept a big-butt boat parked in the street and drive a honking SUV. In our environmentally concerned, liberal superiority we scorned and mocked him.
Then one day he approached me and said, "you have dogs."
It sounded like an accusation and I was instantly defensive anticipating some complaint about barking.
Instead, "boat man" held out a bag of dog biscuits and told me that his aging dog has been diagnosed, like him, with kidney disease and could no longer eat the biscuits. He wanted to know if our dogs would like them.
A few weeks later he knocked on our dooor. I answered, surprised to see him. He said, "you're a preacher, right."
Again, having just been in the news a great deal, I was defensive and anticipated an attack on my liberal views.
Instead, "boat man" -- whose name I now knew -- told me that his father was in the hospital dying and, though he was estranged from his dad and from any faith community, he thought his father would like to have the Roman Catholic last rights administered so he thought I might be able to help him find a priest.
These days I tend the garden, which is in the front yard, in large part so that I can be connected with my neighbors, so that I don't dismiss the ones I don't well know, so that I might be open to the grace that happens when the boat man becomes a neighbor instead of a stranger.
Now he's in the hospital and we will tend to him as best we can.
Meanwhile, Cheryl is across the street engaged in a long conversation with the extremely conservative man who lives just up the street from us. And it all makes me wonder, which of these is my neighbor?

No comments: