The neighbors two doors down are proud parents of a 16-year-old yorkie. Like most centenarians, she prefers a first floor master suite and quiet mornings on the front porch and has a bit of a struggle getting around. She enjoys cruising around town in her red stroller, especially on brisk autumn days reminiscent of her time out east. My five-year-old corgi-beagle, Rogan, gains great satisfaction in barking excitedly at little Coco as she meanders across the postage stamp of lawn separating our neighbor’s house and hers.
On the other side of Coco lives an elderly couple whose children and grandchildren sporadically visit. In the manner of older folks their wardrobe patterns are almost as predictable as the timing of their daily walks: the man in a white cotton undershirt, slacks in varying shades of brown, white hair covered up with either a ballcap or a farmer’s hat; the woman showcasing pastel floral patterns and a lovely pink hat. Every day around nine-thirty and two o’clock they set off down the driveway, hand-in-hand, orthotics against the pavement. I absorb great comfort from their routine, not to be sullied by the underlying panic of hoping I have someone to care for me like that, at that age, or any age of which care is both necessary and desired.
The point of all of this, though—this portrait of the daily activities of neighbors—is to lead you to yesterday, to a point in time in which the universe felt whole again. While talking our Rogan down from a particularly lengthy barking bout, I glanced outside the open window to where Coco’s dad sat on a shaded bench near the sidewalk. Coco zig-zagged across the lawn, sniffing and sneezing. The old man walked out from the garage and, after a cordial greeting, sat next to his neighbor on the bench. For the next twenty minutes or so, two men of differing ethnicities and vastly different generations enjoyed a quiet chat under a gently shifting tree as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Lying on my stomach with my feet up in the air, I watched in Millennial-like wonder, through a window to another time, before computers and the internet and social media took over the world, when neighbors not only said hello but brought pies and casseroles and stopped what they were doing to sit down and chat.
My mother was one of those people. She would sit on the front porch for hours in her coral Houghton Lake t-shirt, jean shorts and white visor, reading the latest romance novel, shifting the fraying pink and blue lawn chair every fifteen minutes or so to stay out of the sun. Every neighbor who passed by stopped to chat, even the ones who didn’t talk to anyone else, and it wasn’t because she forced it, no—the conversations were organic, she listened well and with genuine interest for the responses at hand. My mother understood the value of building community, of embracing conversation rather than hiding or shying away from it, of impacting someone’s day in a positive way with a little dose of positivity and the recognition that they, too, had something important to say. She understood that laughter and a smile could brighten anyone’s day, and she touched many lives in the process.
Through that act of slowing down, observing and reflecting, I’m encouraged to employ these simple acts of kindness in my own life, and I hope you will, too.