Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting to Know the Neighbors

People are the best thing on Earth.  The little interactions, kindnesses and shared moments make life good.  The problem is, I'm not a people person.  I like teaching my students.  I've loved going overseas for various volunteer trips.  But without a defined role, I'd rather stay quiet and in the shadows.

Nowhere is that more true than in my own neighborhood.  Growing up in the country, I had exactly three neighbors.  Now, I estimate there are 60+ homes in my immediate vicinity.  I know very few of those people.  And I don't know how to meet them.

Unexpectedly, my dog has connected me to the neighborhood in ways I never could.  He's a cute puppy.  People want to pet him, to say hello.  I've had a woman stop in her tracks while jogging to come tell me Winston looked just like the yellow lab she had that just passed away.

In the neighborhood Winston has joined a pack of other young, rapscallion puppies.  Four other people on my street have young dogs (three of those are labs or have lab in them), and we often meet in the field nearby.

Around the corner from my house sits a duplex.  On the porch of that duplex often sits an old man and his wife.  I had never spoken to them before until I started walking Winston by.  They would never fail to tell me how much they like my dog, and then share about their own.  The last time I walked by, the man asked me if I'd like some plums from his tree on the way back.  Of course I would!

On my way back he was waiting for me with a big bag of plums.  We formally introduced ourselves.  He told me how much he liked my dog.  And he told me his dog was his best friend with undeniable solemnity and sincerity.

He said he and his wife are realtors, and he put his card in the bag.  Then he added, "Well, retired" with a smile.  I picked out his card.  On the back, in shaky old man script, he had written "retired realtors".

It wasn't much, but it matters.  His small kindness to me made my day better and me feel like I mattered.  I could easily he see he felt good about doing it.  We both left with smiles on our faces.  I think those small interactions are the cornerstone of a happy and contented life.

 We all have opportunities like Jake had everyday to bless someone, no matter how small the blessing.  We just have to be brave enough, or slow down enough, to look for them.

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