We have been in our new house for two weeks, but it has only taken that long for my heart to break into a million pieces and simultaneously be put back together each day. Every day I look out the picture window in the front of our house, and I have a clear view of their front door from here. The mint green paint is cheerful and someone made sure to hang white Christmas lights around it to keep it that way.
I’ve noticed that someone or many ones have made sure of a lot of things over these two weeks.
I don’t really know the family who lives there at all…yet. I met her the first couple of days when we moved in and I took a dinner to introduce ourselves. I didn’t find out til later that day when a friend told me that they actually might have needed the dinner. Two days ago I took rolled out cookie dough and sprinkles so they could make Christmas cookies together. It was little and insignificant in the whole grand scheme, but I thought maybe it would be good to make another memory.
Today I’m sitting on my sofa in tears looking out the window at their circle drive jam-packed with cars. The yard is crawling with men in backpack blowers and work boots. None of the cars are from a lawn service, they’re all just regular guys. A few minutes ago I saw another man and his son with rakes walking down the street and into the yard of the house with the green front door. They just started working alongside everyone else. No one appeared to ask them for help, they just started working. More and more people kept showing up, it was an army of people all hard at work.
Sometimes the best help isn’t the kind you have to ask for, it’s the kind someone else just does because they saw a need.
First there were just two men. One of them I knew from college, so I waved and walked across the street to say hello. It only takes a couple of people to start a movement, and for the last couple of hours all I’ve seen in their yard is movement. It’s a big yard and there are a lot of leaves… too much for her to do on her own even if her two young sons helped out.
The first day we moved in my husband met her out in the yard with their boys. I think they were tossing a ball or something pretty normal. We didn’t see him and didn’t think much of it. But over the past two weeks, I have seen him daily from my front window. Usually around lunchtime there are more cars parked in the drive than normal. The first time or two I saw him, he was walking to the green door in between two or three other men. Then after a few days passed, I noticed they were helping him walk and his pace had slowed. Next he pushed a walker, and towards the end of last week there was a medical van and some people showing her how to open and close a wheelchair. Three days ago there were five men helping him out of a car, into the chair, and to the front door. They all stayed close and walked inside. It was slow and deliberate and I sat on my sofa and cried. I’m not trying to watch or being weird, it’s just that this real life stuff is unfolding just outside the front window of our home.
It reminds me of the last months with my friend Melissa. I’ve had a front row seat to this kind of pain before.
Someone told me it’s in his brain. I don’t know if it started there or if it has simply spread and done the most damage since it arrived there. I’ve watched him get weak though and I’ve seen the cars coming in and out over days. “I’m glad they have such good community” I think to myself. “That is important.”
Today I was reminded of the power that pain can hold. The pain is in his body, but I see the way it shapes and touches everyone else. I know how it makes me feel when I look out the window and see the way it moves others too. The thing about pain is that while it devastates, parts of it can expose a beauty not otherwise visible. Today the beauty looked like men and kids with rakes doing what needed to be done. Pain moved people to proactively love one another.
The Lord doesn’t let any part of this world go to waste, and while the enemy may be trying to destroy in some ways, I see God making things new in others. Redemption isn’t always seeing something fixed in the exact same way it broke, but it sure does make beauty from ashes. I’m seeing a redemption story unfolding in the yard across from me.
They all finished clearing the leaves there a bit ago and now they’re blowing the leaves in our yard and another neighbor’s too. What started out of one home, out of one life, has moved outward and touched us too.
I heard that they had to call in hospice. And whether or not that’s true, what does appear true is that their journey through this pain isn’t lessening. It’s not letting up, and I suspect mostly everyone around feels helpless. I know I do. We want to help though, we want to take the pain or make it go away. We certainly don’t want to live in it or have anyone we love or know walk through it.
What I see cultivated in the life across the street now spreads across their yard and into mine… all decked out in work clothes and ball caps. So I don’t have to have known him for a lifetime to be changed by him in just a few days. I’d guess the people who have known him a lifetime would say the same.
But what I do know is this, the legacy of friendship that this man has cultivated is the kind that changes communities. It’s the kind that can change the world. And the Lord is using that legacy of a life well lived to remind the enemy that pain doesn’t win in the end.
Pain may hold power, but it doesn’t hold the victory.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33