I’m sitting on my front porch listening to Beauty and the Beast (the Celine and Peabo version) while reading Love Does by Bob Goff when my neighbor Nancy walks up. I won’t put an age on Nancy, but she has a nice crown of grey and white hair. She wears a gold chain, and when she’s working in her yard, she always has on a grey or white t-shirt with her work pants and tool belt. She always says hello, and she always asks me how I’m doing. Today was no different.
Today is the first time I’ve talked to Nancy in about two months. Some time ago, she had a heart attack, which took her out of her house for a bit because of obvious circumstances. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and admittedly, I missed her. I had small talk with Jules, the other woman who lives there, but I felt a special bond with Nancy. She was the first one to come over and introduce herself when I moved into my new neighborhood. She was kind through and through with no motive except to get to know who she was living next to. I not only appreciated that gesture but also respected it.
I look up from my book and see Nancy with her hands on her hips. We exchange hellos.
“Well, how ya doing?” She looks up to the sky then at me. One thing I notice is she gives me time to think about how I am before I respond. She has never given me the “Good n you?” Response most people give in passing. She listens.
While she stood there, I thought about my day and decided on it would be accurate to say I was good. “Good. I’m doing good. How are you?”
Nancy turns away from me, looking at the direction of my back yard and says, “By the grace of God…” We both let her words coat the atmosphere. “By the grace of God. I don’t feel so bad for someone who just had a heart attack!”
We laugh. “I noticed you were gone for a while, but when I saw you, you were right back in your yard.”
“I love my yard.” She spoke like a true sculptor of the earth.
We finished our heart attack chit chat and discussed our now shared backyard due to Hurricane Irma. She elaborated on how she was going to cut a tree out from my back yard, but truly all I could focus on was when she said “chainsaw.”
“Ohhhh, okay.” She made the whole process sound easy. Woman who just had a heart attack with a chainsaw? Sounds about right. I didn’t question it. I told her to be careful in the back yard and with her chainsaw.
She left me with a warm smile and a “take care.” I was alone again with Mr. Goff and my music.
A lot of the time I think we ask people how they are out of habit. We don’t really want the answer, or if we do, we want to hear that they’re okay and that’s it. One of my co-workers told me, “Don’t ever ask how someone is if you don’t really want the answer. I asked a lady once and she broke down on the spot—crying uncontrollably. If you’re not prepared for that type of answer then don’t ask because there’s good and bad responses.”
When I asked Nancy how she was, I had no idea what she was going to say. Am I glad it wasn’t a break down? Sure, but that would’ve been okay too. My how are you today wasn’t just a how are you. It was a “I’m glad you’re still here. I hope you’re feeling better. Your absence made an impact.” What I got in return was the honor of getting a bit of who Nancy is, and I think that’s pretty cool.
We’re called to love everyone as Jesus loves us. That requires being genuine all the time, not only when it’s convenient.
““The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””
Mark 12:29-31 NIV
You can’t really love your neighbor as yourself if you aren’t loving God with all your heart. Could you really love God and hate your neighbor who is also His creation?