If I were asked to name what I've loved most in my life, high on the list would be the wonderful neighbors I've known. Not always, not everywhere, but throughout the years, I have been deeply blessed to have neighbors who could be counted on, who were kind or fun or just plain good company.
When I lived in Wyoming a few years back, my neighbor Lindsay was all of the above, and more. I met her when I went to look at the sweet little house she owned and was willing to rent to a woman with two dogs, a cat and friends who played fiddles and banjos. By the time I had signed the lease and was driving away, I knew I'd met a friend. By the time our paths diverged two years later, I knew I'd found a sister.
None of what bonded us is mysterious or unique, and nothing we did was particularly noteworthy. In some ways, the ordinariness created the magic. Her husband worked in the oil field and was often gone for long stretches, so we both were in the market for some companionship. When I came home from a busy day at work, we'd sit on her back porch watching the river, talking about everything - and about nothing much.
When I was absolutely flattened by a personal tragedy, Lindsay took care of me as though I were one of her hospice patients, gently making me eat, coaxing me out of bed when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and quit, leading me kindly back onto the path called Life.
Her husband's work had them both relocating to Texas at the same time my career led me away from Wyoming, and it was the end of a beloved era in my life. Our weekly phone calls and almost daily e-mails are evidence that distance does not determine neighborliness.
As we look at the vast needs of our Southern neighbors displaced by Hurricane Katrina, we might bear this in mind: There is an art to being a good neighbor, but there is no mystery. Consideration, kindness and a willingness to extend ourselves is all it takes. No matter who we are or where we live, that simple combination makes all the difference in the world.
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