My very first column for Single! was about the difficult, rapid transition to a new job and a new home after graduating from college. I described it as a storm happening around me, and I felt like a plastic bag just blowing around, helpless and aimless. What I didn’t say in that column was how God used complete strangers to minister to me in my time of need. This is that story and it involves two Jacks, a June and a total stranger.
The first Jack, aka Jack-O, was my brother’s good friend in college. When I needed a guy with a truck and strong arms to help me move from an apartment across town to a duplex on a cul-de-sac, he generously agreed to drive over an hour to get here from his hometown and stay at a friend’s house all weekend so he could help me during the day. He carried heavy things, assembled new furniture and joined my boyfriend in teasing me over every small thing. I am so, so thankful for his help.
In the tiny apartment I lived in before I moved to this duplex, I believed my neighbor to be evil incarnate. He seemed to be the most obnoxious, selfish, inconsiderate neighbor in the history of all neighbors. In this move, I was desperately hopeful for a quiet, private, serene place to live. So when Jack told me that my new neighbors were busy-bodies who threatened to call the police on him for parking on the wrong side of the street, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here we go again!”
I so wanted Jack to be wrong about my neighbors, and as it turns out, he was sort of wrong. My neighbors, Jack and June, are both disabled; she has a bad back and heart, and he had a leg amputated several years ago. She often loses balance and falls, and then he tries to get to her as quickly as his prosthetic leg will allow. They have been married over 25 years and have lived in the house next to my duplex for 12 of them. Although they are in fact “observant,” they’re the well-intentioned kind that looks out for the house while I’m gone and checks on me if I break my routine. They have repeatedly blessed me and helped me with a generous spirit. And, they hadn’t actually threatened to call the police; they just warned Jack-O that police have ticketed people for parking on that side of the street before.
That takes care of two Jacks and a June. Now for the stranger. When I moved in, the grass was already really tall in my yard. Part of my lease agreement was to keep the lawn mowed, so I knew it had to be cut soon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get my boyfriend’s mower to work. Then one day, after worrying for a week about how I would afford a new mower, I was stunned to pull into my driveway and observe my lawn, freshly cut, neatly trimmed around the edges, and smelling nice and grassy. There was a note on my door that read, “I noticed you were having problems with your mower yesterday. Welcome to the neighborhood.” Apparently, my neighborhood had a resident angel.
Sometimes as Christians, we don’t like to be ministered to. It’s like how the disciples felt when Jesus washed their feet: what are you doing – why are you – hey don’t, I don’t need you to… when really, we need it more than anything. God had used the kindness of strangers to remind me that He is Master of all things, and I most definitely am not. Proverbs 27:10b says, “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.”
Here’s a practical tip for starting out on your own: evaluate the neighborhood before you sign a lease. You will never realize how important it is to have good neighbors until you have bad ones. Remember in my Emergency Room column when I told you how wonderful it was for my neighbor to take care of me until I could get a ride to the hospital? Appreciate good neighbors if you have them. Don’t be too prideful to accept blessings from friends. And don’t forget how God uses complete and total strangers to meet our needs when we need them the most.