Sunday, March 27, 2011

Good Neighbors

In my little town I grew up believing
God keeps his eye on us all
And he used to lean upon me
As I pledged allegiance to the wall
Lord I recall my little town

Many's the time I've been mistaken,and many times confused
And I've often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
But it's all right, it's all right, I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be bright and Bon Vivant .................

Bon Vivant is the farthest thing from my mind these days. But Paul Simon reaches out from a generation back with cogent lyrics to accompany these dark spring days. "Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town", joins the headline of a deep and continuing decline in the population of our little corner of Missouri. Our lovely gracious past as personified by some of our leading ladies is laid to rest and mourned by all.

But...God keeps His eye on us all. What can we offer; what ineffable essence persists in our latter days that makes our place special? We still harbor a remnant of America past here, one held near and dear in our mythology past and future; we have good neighbors.

On a simple street in our little town, there stand two old houses. One has been home for an older couple for many years; one has been home for a young family for just a few. The young family's home is spacious, but they are energetic and the little children often spill out of the interior, laughing, biking, swinging, digging. The yards meld seamlessly and the little children are as welcome on their neighbor's driveway, or porch, or home, as they are in their very own. There are "chores" to do and ice cream with which to celebrate their completion. There are exchanges of birthday presents for the little children and the lovely example of the parents for the youngsters of the gifts of time and labor as the young parents rake, mow, and scoop the common snow. What a special relationship between these two families, unrelated but by the ancient ties of common ground and regard. How precious the extra, unexpected, bonus love of old for young and young for old? What a blessing the bond has been for both families, one made more likely by the open minded proximity and generosity of our little town.

Neighorhoods can be miles apart. Out on the country roads, families miles apart grew up like they were just across a fence. Couples played cards; kids ran wild; cattle were mutually put back in whenever they wandered onto the pavement. Gifts were exchanged at Christmas and cake was consumed on birthdays. Everyone's kids were celebrated at weddings and graduations and everyone mourned at funerals. Time passed, and the second generations grew up, married, left town, or settled nearby. Misfortune was no stranger; certainly family rallied around, but so did the good neighbors. Whether days were sunny or dark, unsung, but never unnoticed, the unrelated family, the loving neighbors as close as family, were there. Bereavement is not only the lot of the blood relative. Our Lord recognized this and immortalized the special relationship in the tale of the Good Samaritan. "Which of these men was a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?"

"the one who had mercy on him".

"Go and do likewise".

We are short on explosive growth. We could use a few new houses and a few less decrepit ones.

But our little town is rich with mercy, with generosity, and with good neighbors.

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