Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Neighbors Do

When I was a young newlywed, my husband and I moved to a small Texas town called Mart.  Jay was hired to be the youth and music minister at the First Baptist Church there in Mart and the church was kind enough to give us a parsonage to live in.  I couldn't wait to meet my neighbors!  And I didn't have to wait long, because in this small town of two thousand, individuals, community, and neighbors are still highly valued.  I think half the town came to help us move in.  It didn't take me too long to meet my neighbors…on my left was Don Matthys, on my right was Walter Williams, and across the street (who later moved into the house behind me) was Walter Honeycutt.  They were happily married, retired couples and I absolutely adored them from the start.  They taught me much over the five years I lived there, but the most important thing they taught me was how to be a good neighbor.

As soon as I was settled into my home, my first order of business was to work on my yard.  My yard was giant…several times bigger than any yard I've had since…so I knew I’d have to put a lot of time into it.  I had waited 21 years to learn how to mow a yard and I was so excited.  (Yes…I said “excited” in reference to mowing…I obviously did not get out much).  As soon as we were settled in the house, I went to Sears with Jay to pick out our (my) first lawn mower.  Jay taught me a couple things about the mower, then, I set out to mow my first lawn.  I must say…it was horrible.  I was the worst lawn-mower in history.  By the time I finished, I had gutted my yard.   Random piles of clippings were dotted across the not-so-straight streaks of scalped yard.  I guess Don noticed.  I waited a couple weeks for the grass to recover and started out again with my mower.  Next thing I knew, I heard another mower.  “Don must be out mowing his yard too”, I thought.  Don was mowing … but not his yard … mine.  I stopped my mower to go and thank him.  He showed me some tips on how to actually cut the grass without ruining my yard, and we started mowing together.  We mowed together for five years.  We only mowed my yard though…wisely, he wouldn't let me touch his.  When he heard my mower start up, it took him about five minutes to be out with me.  And sometimes Walter Williams would join us and we’d have our own little mowing party.  I thanked Don every time, and every time he would be embarrassed by the recognition.  As far as he was concerned, it was his gift to his younger, inexperienced neighbor, and he truly enjoyed doing it.  I did too.  Don certainly knew a thing or two about how to spend his time.

Once I had the grass thing under control, I decided to work on a flower garden.  I spent days clearing out the grass by my house to make a flower bed.  Then I had to decide what to put in it.  I knew absolutely nothing about flowers, but I had long admired the flowers that Walter Williams had around the base of his trees.  My flower garden was on the side of my house that faced his, and any time he saw me out there working on it, he came to help.  I asked what kind of flowers he had and told him I’d like to have something like that.  He nodded his head and walked back to his home.  Moments later, he came out of his garage with a spade and to my horror, he began digging up his flowers.  Not understanding that the flowers were bulbs and could be transplanted, I thought my poor neighbor had lost it.  He walked back over to my house and I’m yelling, “Walter!  What are you doing?  I didn’t mean I want those exact flowers!  I can get my own!  Really!”  Walter was laughing at this point and went on to explain that not only would this help thin out his flower bed, but someday these few bulbs would spread all over my new flower bed and I could find someone else to share them with.  He was right.  Somehow, by sharing the flowers, they actually multiplied to the point that they had to be shared again.  Walter knew a thing or two about sharing.

One day I looked out the kitchen window and saw my other neighbor doing something rather odd.  He had driven his truck (all the way) across the street and parked it along the side of my yard.  Now, Walter Honeycutt had a hard time walking, so I understood why he drove to get to my house, but I was still unsure why he had the gate of his pickup down and was sitting there having a drink of water from a large orange cooler.  Before I could get to him to say “Hi Walter, what’s up?”, I saw him sprinkling something on my yard.  Weeds were not a concern in this small country town, so I was dumbfounded as to what on earth he was up to.  Walter had noticed something about my yard…it was covered with ant hills.  Now, I have to tell you, it was also covered with something that concerned me more…holes.  Tarantula holes.  Come to find out, I lived on “tarantula alley”…and my yard was covered with entrances to their homes.  Walter smiled when I told him they were my bigger concern because what he knew was that they weren't the real problem.  See, tarantulas pretty much keep to themselves …fire ants do not.  Fire ants may be small, but they are horrible, torturous, fiendish creatures who like to play a fun little game with any human they can find.  Here’s the game…they sneak their tiny, weightless bodies all up your legs…hundreds of them at a time…the poor human doesn't feel them at all…then, when the leader gives the signal, they all sting you at the same time.  Only then do you know of their presence.  And unless you’re completely alone, you’re not allowed to strip down…which is your first instinct…trust me.  If there’s not a lake within two feet, you are in trouble, my friend.  Knowing this, Walter was sprinkling some kind of homemade fire ant repellent.  He would sprinkle a few mounds, then rest on his truck.  Sprinkle a few more, then rest on his truck.  It took him hours in the hot, summer Texas sun, but he wouldn't let me help.  It was his service to me.  See Walter Honeycutt knew a thing or two about serving his neighbors. 

I was as lucky as a young girl could get when it came to my first neighbors.  They each did so much more for me than I did for them, despite the fact that I was the young and healthy one.  I was constantly getting into home improvement projects that were over my head (thank you, HGTV), and they were constantly helping me out.  And they always did it with a smile and a laid-back attitude.  They had this “it’s gonna be alright” outlook and they knew how to enjoy themselves even while they were working…on my yard.  I’ll never forget these three or what they taught me.  I may not be the all-knowing lawn expert in my neighborhood, but I now know how to give my time, my talents and a helping hand to my neighbors.  After all, that’s what neighbors do.

1 comment:

  1. Kenda,
    loved your example of good neighbors all around, and used some of it when writing birthday wishes for a former neighbor of mine...i keep looking for more from you! juju (a friend of kami's)