The second of these, which I shall discuss first, involved walking out to hear my neighbor telling my husband that the heavy trash he put out today, thinking it would be picked up tomorrow morning, needed to be removed from the curb "or you might get a ticket." Last month, my husband had put this stuff out, only to discover when the truck came around that last month was the "limbs and yard waste only" heavy trash day. So he hauled the stuff back inside our yard. After decades of living across the side street from this neighbor and his wife, I was immediately suspicious that he had already called the city to complain about this trash. Never have I met a more O-C, anal retentive, appearance means everything, house proud couple in my life. Mind you, they don't like government interfering in their lives, but they're perfect (just ask them), yet they are the first to call the city government when a neighbor offends their sense of neatness of property. What I wanted to say to him was "Oh, so you've called them and filed a complaint already, have you?" I KNOW he has, and that he redeems himself by "looking nice" and "warning" us that we could be ticketed. It makes him "look nice," he thinks.
This I know; they used to regularly call the city and have my widowed mother ticketed when they were first married. Always, they would "warn" us. Now heavy trash for our house can be easily seen ONLY by this couple. The two houses behind mine and his are screened from seeing the "unsightly" pile by a fence on my side of the street and thick plantings on his. So I know it's he who wants to not look at it. Granted, someone might drive by and be so enraged that they actually remember to call when they get home, but what are the odds? After all, the traffic on that street even at rush hour is maybe one car an hour. This month, I fully admit that we got the wrong Thursday...it's the 4th not the 3rd like we thought. What else is true, is that we are allowed to put heavy trash on the Friday BEFORE our scheduled pickup...which would be the day after tomorrow. Did I say "anal?" What the heck is the big deal about TWO days early? DID I say "anal?"
When he went home, I started working on my planter box, and then I got so mad, I went around to the back gate and started struggling with the top mattress on the pile to get all the stuff inside my fence. I got the mattress off the pile and down into the ditch (no culvert or driveway here). When I tried to roll it over to get it up the slope, I folded it and then tried to flip the folded package. The mattress sprang up and hit me in the face, leaving me flailing around trying not to fall backwards into the ditch. Please don't ask me why I tried this same thing twice more before giving up. I think I thought I should be able to make it work! If I were 28 and not dealing with active lupus, I'm sure I could have! However, I realized on the third try I was defining "insanity."
So I called my husband's name and "help" our bedroom being at the back of the house. I figured he could hear me. From down the street , toward my "behind" neighbor's house, a man answered me.
"Who are you calling? What do you need help with?" I could not see him because of the pecan tree foliage.
"I was calling my husband to help me with this stuff." I looked in the direction of the voice, and saw a man who looked like a street person, riding up on a bicycle, a paper bag with a beer can in his hand.
"What's his name? Where is he?" he asks. I told him the name and said that he should be inside this back bedroom, pointing as I answered. I thought perhaps this guy would cycle up there and knock on the window and and tell my husband.
"What are you doing trying to move this stuff, ma'am? Let me do that for you." He got off his bike, and grabbed the mattress and WHOOSH inside the fence it went. Then he spryly stepped back to the pile and grabbed the next item. By the time he got to the third one, my husband came sauntering out. Together they moved the rest of the large heavy furniture inside the fence. I moved the cushions and a lightweight broken chair. It took maybe 5 minutes from the moment the man had called out to me. He kept telling me "Don't worry about those, ma'am, you'll wind yourself."
I asked my husband if we still had any of the beers he'd bought for the carpenter my brother had hired to do some work around the house before my mother died last November. He went inside to get them, and I chatted with this fellow. He used to live two streets over, but then lost his job. His mother had died and he had no family, working as a maintenance man in a nearby apartment complex, and odd job man for some other people in the neighborhood. I asked if he was living rough, and he said he was living at a local motel which he named, and which I know to be cheap and about 4 miles away. I learned he was 10 years younger than I am, where he went to junior high and high school. He's of German heritage and grew up here in Houston. I told him his eyes reminded me of my mother's father, whom I had adored and who died just after we moved to this house in 1957.
My husband came out with two beers for him, and he protested that wasn't necessary. I told him "We can't drink them, and the guy we bought them for quit drinking, and this is the only thing I've got to thank you with." Now I know many would think it was wrong of me to give beer to someone who possibly is an alcoholic. I would think so myself most of the time. What I have learned however, are two things. One, each person has the right to their own vices, and you cannot make them choose not to indulge in them. Second, given the circumstances of his life, those two Guinness dark beers might be one of the few pleasures he has in life. Maybe I learned something else too. Some people who don't look so savory and whose lifestyle might be objectionable to others have wonderful hearts and generous souls. I think I knew that already, but it certainly struck me that my neighbor merely "looked" kind and wasn't, and this stranger opened his heart to help someone without asking any thing in return.
"No need for that," he said
"You were a blessing when I needed one," I said "This is my way of thanking you."
"And this is your thank you!" he said, and smiled, lighting up those those pale ice blue eyes with the glow of heaven. I wonder, might Jesus not return as someone like this? A down and out person living day to day, or a welfare mother who made "bad choices?" Or would Jesus come back as someone who looked and lived like my neighbor -- always neat and tidy but trying to control the behaviors of others? When the Bible talks about "denying Jesus" could it be talking bout passing by someone like my angel of today as "unsavory?"
Having taken so much time and space writing this, I will save the other story for another post. Anyway, I'm hongree! Thanks for reading this. I'll be interested to see if anyone leaves any comments or fills out the form on my homepage.