“But what are, if we are not made up of nursed hurts, resentments and old pain?”
I am talking to one of my most long-standing spiritual friends. I wait, taking a breath, and answer, “We are so much more–oh, so much more. If we can but forgive, Love can move into our hearts; and, when Love is in our hearts, we become unlimited.”
As I lay in bed that evening, I pondered one of my working theories about people and personalities. Some people are like the beautiful hard, fruit candies of my childhood—with liquid centers of pure flavorful goodness inside. This is where the best part of a person resides. A “hard-candy personality” usually yields the most amazing life flavors when the outer shell finally gives way. I went to bed wondering what my new neighbor’s story might be.
Having adjusted to the altitude, we settled into a new routine. And, we started to bump into our nearest neighbor, Martha, with greater frequency. As it turned out, Martha lived alone with three large cats and, according to her own report, had gone through as many husbands as Elizabeth Taylor. Truth be known, I do not remember who broke the ice first, but pretty soon I was being welcomed over to Martha’s place for an hour or so of girl time on weekends, to simply lay in a recliner, pet a cat or watch some television. (We do not own a television. And, all families and family members sometimes need mini-breaks from chores and big personalities to remain strong and diplomatic.)
Our relationship with Martha unfolded from there. Martha and I went for rides in her giant eight-cylinder truck to the local greenhouse. We both benefited from breathing the moist greenhouse air, petting the resident cats, lazing about the only koi pond in town. It was after these outings that Martha showed me the best local haunts for real Mexican food.
With Martha, we hosted impromptu holiday dinners, inviting the neighboring residents who were often miles from relatives. We planned and cooked for picnics, sharing stories about the times, people and circumstances that were the best in our lives. In essence, we formed a new extended family with our fellow residents. Martha served as the primary host, always preparing the party’s main dish. She offered no-nonsense wisdom and life-experience straight from her heart.
Perhaps the most amazing gift we received, as a family of three, was the unbridled generosity that was at the core of Martha’s being. We often returned home to find a huge pot of still warm stew on the porch. Saturday mornings Martha delivered fresh, whole fruit pies. There were hot biscuits, pumpkin bars and an amazing variety of other delectable dishes made by Martha, who had found a recipe she simply had to try. We relished our roles as official, new-recipe (or tried-and-true recipe) taste-testers. And, no matter how many times we helped her shovel her truck out of the snow or offered a “reciprocal” dish of one, modest serving, there was no way we could ever hope to fully honor the natural generosity in Martha’s heart.
The years have erased the details about which of our households received the nudge to move first, but start packing our households we did. One day, as Martha and I were swapping boxes, to ensure that we each had the sizes we needed for our independent moves, she looked up at me saying with an unusually pained expression on her face, “I want to tell you I am sorry.”
“For what?” I looked up incredulously, “You haven’t done anything except be kind and generous toward us over the past five years.”
“I am sorry for not signing on as an emergency contact for your child after you first arrived. I didn’t know you. I just could not take on one more thing.”
“Oh, Martha, no apology is necessary. Everything has been forgiven. You have been an exceptional neighbor—every step of the way. Put that out of your mind and move forward in peace.”
Things fell into place like clockwork during the process of our relocation from our native region to a completely different area of the country. Providence seemed to be at work in each transaction. We traded two smooth-highway vehicles for an SUV capable of handling unpaved roads and mountains. We walked from a week-long stay in a hotel room into a wonderful housing opportunity at the foot of a hill and with a view of a picturesque mountain. We were on the edge of Federal Forest land. And, two buildings away from our own, there was a coffee shop.
Setting up our household in a region without family or friends nearby, we were at a complete loss for only one thing: the additional, local emergency contact required on one of our child’s school forms. Our new property manager, a busy working mother, with three small boys of her own, had her hands full. When I asked about whom she might recommend to us for the local, emergency contact, she suggested we talk to our closest neighbor, whom she described as a very regular and reliable person.
On the afternoon I knocked on our neighbor’s door, I did not know what to expect. Although we had been in residence for two weeks already, I had not yet met our new neighbor. She was always gone to work before we rose and returned home after work and shopping—long after we had settled in for the night. Then, in one brisk motion while I daydreamed, a tall woman with short gray hair opened the door. I could feel the outside air being pulled into her apartment with that abrupt motion as it swept past my body. I outlined our situation, explaining that she had come with the property manager’s highest recommendation. Attempting to appeal to her sense of compassion, I explained that we needed just one additional local emergency contact for our child’s school form. I received a brusque, no-nonsense reply.
“I am done being responsible for other people and other people’s children. And, I don’t have a problem saying, ‘No.’ So, the answer is no. I am not available to act as a contact on that form.”
End of story. I thanked her for her time and took four steps across the sidewalk that separated our two buildings and our front doors.
“How did it go?” my husband asked.
“I don’t even know what to say except that we need to find someone else to act as an emergency contact on that form,” I replied, still feeling a bit dazed.