A woman we’d never seen before was asking about our next door neighbor, an independent senior I’ll call Ms. Terry. The woman was there to pick her up for church, but the gate was locked and Ms. Terry wasn’t answering her phone.
“She always told me if there was a problem to come here and ask y’all,” she told us. “I’m worried because her car is in the driveway but she’s not answering the phone.”
I joined in the phone-a-thon, calling her cell and then her home again. After several rings at her house, I heard what I was certain was the distinct sound of someone answering in a raspy voice before the answering machine took over.
I knew something was wrong.
So we did what any good neighbor would do: Billy jumped her fence to peer in her windows.
And what did he find? Too many curtains, but a distinct view of a television turned to fuzz. I should note that once at a haunted house, a static TV a la The Ring scared Billy more than anything else in the whole deal.
We were in full freak-out mode.
At this point, the kind woman from church called the police. They arrived and subsequently broke down her door. But after searching the house, she was nowhere to be found.
They pulled away. Plot thickening, people!
I was convinced they hadn’t searched well. After all, I felt certain she’d weakly answered the phone from inside the house. I tried to persuade Billy go back in for our own search. He declined.
Our new partner in crime, the church lady, mentioned we should check her yard and… gulp… her shed!
Not to miss out on the excitement, I was literally outside in the dark with three-week old Isaac, traipsing through her yard.
The shed lock was open, which was shocking enough because she always talks about keeping it locked after several break-ins. Billy eased open the door, furiously shining the flashlight in all corners.
At this point, we were actually thankful we didn’t find her.
We peeked into her car, listened at the trunk. But truthfully, we were out of ideas.
We felt a responsibility to keep an eye out because, as it turns out, the police don’t repair a door after they knock it down. So now her house was standing open for the world to join us in entering without permission.
Sure enough, an hour or so later, Ms Terry returned after having taken the bus to an appointment. She had forgotten about her church commitment.
Naturally, she was convinced she’d been robbed. Before we saw her, a neighbor had already thrown us under the proverbial bus, so she wasn’t too pleased with the Q family. But Billy explained the situation and by the end of the conversation, she was thanking us for breaking into her house. (He’s got magical relationship skills like that.)
When we moved into our neighborhood with a community ministry focus, we never really envisioned sneaking through our neighbors’ yards and peering in their windows. But sometimes breaking in someone’s door is what it means to be a good neighbor.
We care about Ms Terry, and we do for her what we would do for any neighbor anywhere we would live. (Don’t you want us to move in next door now?) It’s this being present in the neighborhood that offers us opportunities to care for people in ways organizations and ministries simply cannot.
It’s why we value living in the neighborhood. When you need us, we will kick your door down.
What are some unexpected ways you've been able to care for your neighbors?
Photo credit: Michael Kuhn
Photo credit: Michael Kuhn
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