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Listening

17 Jul

People Coming For Dinner Can Be Too Big Of A Deal

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, told me that he hates it when people are coming for a meal. The last time he called he was ready to give up on having company altogether. Ruby his wife had asked her boss and his wife to dinner. According to Ed, Ruby went beyond a light cleaning in the house. She insisted that Ed cut and trim the lawn before they came. Ed claimed that he went from being the king of his castle to slave labor and under the threat of death if he messed up the house.

In frustration, Ed asked Ruby if they had royalty coming to dinner, and she answered that he should treat them like they were nobility. Ed was for taking them out to a restaurant to reduce the stress level in their house, but Ruby would not hear of it. Ed said, “I felt like a prisoner in my own home forced to be on my best behavior while pretending to be enjoying myself.” When it was over, Ed said, “Thank the Lord that they are gone!” Ruby said, “I cannot wait to invite them again!”  

Thin Line

8 Jul

A Neighbor could be a Friend or an Enemy

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, had a question for me in our last chat on the phone. The question was, “In your city of over 90,000 people, don’t you have countless strangers around you rather than neighbors?” He had decided that with us living in a condo, we would never even see others unless we met them in the hallways or lobby by chance.

Having lived in Melville, or near it, all his life, Ed, felt that most people he sees on the streets are his neighbors. To Ed, a neighbor is someone you have seen before, someone that you know of, or have heard of before. Sometimes he knows others because they are curlers, bowlers, golfers, hockey or baseball fans, volunteer firefighters, etc. To Ed, the larger the place you live in, the less you know the people around you. My old neighbor does not believe that he knows everyone in Melville, Saskatchewan, but he sure has a sense of who belongs there and who is a stranger.

I mentioned to Ed that maybe there has always been a great debate about who is our neighbor and how we should treat our neighbors. The dictionary defines a neighbor as a person living near or next door. In a wider sense, it means any fellow human being that we can see and is close enough to interact with if we choose to do so. Some say that you can be a good neighbor only if you have good neighbors. Some have questioned the teachings of the Bible that tell us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy when they are the same person. Robert Frost cautioned that good fences make good neighbors. There are endless stories of neighbors who were too close for comfort when they were partying or fighting. Some have questioned if it is wrong to pray that a neighbor would move away as soon as possible.

In the Bible, the law is very clear when it says, “To love your neighbor as yourself.” A lawyer asked Jesus. “Who is my neighbor?” In his answer, Jesus told a parable about a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers. They beat him and left him half-dead. Both a priest and a Levite, Jewish religious leaders, came along one after the other and saw the beaten man by the side of the road. They passed him by without helping him.

There may have been concern that it was a trick so that in stopping to help the injured man, they might themselves be attacked by robbers. If the man died as they were helping him, they would become ritually unclean and would need a time of purification themselves. We do not know why they did not help the injured man. Thankfully, a Samaritan came along and helped the wounded man, taking him to an inn and leaving money for his care while the man recovered.

Jesus showed that the Samaritan, a hated neighbor of the Jews, extended mercy to the beaten stranger in need. The lawyer admitted that the Samaritan acted as a neighbor to the half-dead man. Jesus told the lawyer to go and do likewise.

Discouragement

7 Jul

Disappointments Call For Flexibility, Not Discouragement

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, has always said, “Don’t invite me to your pity party.” Ed’s motto is; “I don’t want to hear about your problems, I don’t even like my own.” My old neighbor claims that it takes a transport full of problems to discourage him. He is farmer tough when it comes to disappointments; farmers don’t expect life to run smooth and trouble free. No one else should either.

When Ed called the other night, I wasn’t expecting any sympathetic ear. I told him that I had a sobering week. I discovered that my garden plot in the community garden had been vandalized. Someone had broken in during the night and went about pulling garden plants out by the roots. They had pulled out my dill plant, two bean plants, two cucumber plants, a portion of the Swiss chard, one kale plant, and left them to die. My great patch of lettuce had vanished altogether. I replanted a few of the plants but had a mass funeral for the cucumbers and kale casualties.

Fitbit

23 Jun

Get As Healthy As A Horse, But Not As Heavy As One

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, usually has no connection to Facebook. Sadly, his wife Ruby has become addicted to that social media site. Last week, a friend put some pictures of the wife and me, trying some square dancing on Facebook. Pictures do not lie so I looked like an elephant in a plaid shirt and jeans, lumbering awkwardly on the dance floor. Ruby had Ed look at the pictures on the website, and I will regret it for some time to come.

The first question Ed had for me was, “I thought you were losing some weight? You need to lose about 50 lbs more, going by your Facebook pictures,” my old neighbor said over the phone. He then offered to lend me money to buy a Fitbit. Not only has Ruby become dedicated to Facebook, but she has been wearing a Fitbit, recording her number of steps every day, religiously. Ed had great fun telling me that while many lose weight by walking 10,000 steps a day, I might want to double that to get my weight down to a size suitable to be caught on a camera.

Moving Forward

18 Jun

Moving Forward, Out of the Fire and Into the Frying Pan

“Where are you now?” Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, asked on the answering machine? He admits that it was much easier keeping track of our whereabouts when we lived next door. When I called him back and told him we were at our granddaughter’s high school graduation, Ed scoffed at such events. “Why do they have a significant event concerning a person’s jump out of the fire into the frying pan?” he asked.

“During high school you are continually firefighting smoky classes, choking on subjects that burn your eyes, and blister your patience. There is an infernal furnace of assignments, tests and exams until, at last, you are done your ordeal,” according to Ed. In high school, Ed majored in flirting with girls, smoking cigarettes, being both late for class and absent from school, smart remarks, and was a frequent participant at detentions. He viewed his graduation day as a release from prison.

Toxic

8 Jun

A Magical Situation Can Turn Into A Toxic Waste

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, called yesterday when the weather was so hot it made a person seriously consider that it could be a taste of hell. He challenged me when I told him that it was too hot to breathe. “I don’t remember you whining about the heat in Saskatchewan. You’ve faced hot weather before, jump in the river or the ocean to cool off,” Ed said.

I asked Ed if he had heard that the equator had moved north so that we were frying, like French fries in hot grease, here in B.C., I told him that it has to do with global climate change. He almost believed me for ten seconds. My old neighbor refused to tell me how the weather was behaving in Saskatchewan. He Informed me that those who move away from God’s country could only long for cool nights and comfortable summer heat. I asked him if it was hot enough there that he had the air conditioner running in his tractor’s cab. He answered yes.