Years ago my brother mowed grass, ran errands, and did those little things for the neighborhood widows whenever one of them needed something done. Mrs. Donald, for instance, had him clean out the ashes where she had made lye for her lye soap. Whatever he learned in the process of helping her just expanded his knowledge of life as it once was. He learned to love the little old grandmother types in the process of helping them. Mrs. Donald was the only neighbor he invited to witness his marriage in our mother’s front room.
Our parents are in their eighties now. Dad, never bigger than a pewter fizzle in the first place, is still headstrong even if the strength has left his legs and arms. Yesterday the son of an elderly neighbor stopped by to ask if he could help load a water heater that needed to be hauled off. Roger has always been a sweet guy, but when I heard that he had stopped to offer his help, I felt he deserved a hug or at least a pat on the back. He may be the same age as I am, but the boy who helps his neighbors is alive and well in his spirit.
This boy-next-door helpfulness may be apparent in other nations just as much as it is right here in Texas, but to me it symbolizes something that is from the American mold. One of our friends introduced me to a young woman who serves in Iraq as a munitions and ordinance specialist who blows up ammunition, bombs, and other dangerous stuff that needs to be disarmed. Even guys who really like loud bangs know that her job is extremely dangerous. But she is serving because she knows this job needs to be done for her ‘neighbors’ in Iraq. Even though she has been offered work with private security companies, she stays with our American military and continues to do her work.
My brother would come home from a hard day’s labor when he was 17 and go mow Mrs. Donald’s grass. Roger stopped on Sunday on the way back home after helping his own mother. Mary lives in the extreme dangers of Iraq and chooses to stay despite the danger because she can serve others in ways that they cannot help themselves. Young people or old, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Somehow they did and are still doing what the commandment demands: Love your neighbor as yourself. Thank God for the boys and girls next door.