Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
In the course of any day we will interact with a number of people. Some will be friends, some acquaintances and some merely passers-by. Yet they are all our neighbours whom we are called to love, even though at times some people are reluctant to ask for help, or even admit they need it. Such cases need to be dealt with tactfully, of course. It is important to respect the other person’s wishes although that might lead to an awkward situation further down the line, as happened recently.
Ernie was manager of the hall where we meet sometimes. He was a hardworking, efficient and conscientious sort of chap. Nothing seemed too much trouble for him. The hall was always clean and tidy; laid out as we needed it to be, the right number of chairs in the right places. The committee rooms always had a supply of pencils and paper, a jug of water and glasses on the table and the sound and video system set up for use if required. After the meetings Ernie would be serving behind the bar. He had a cheery word for everyone. “How’s the wife?” he’d ask, “All well at home?” When asked how he would always say: “No problems. I don’t have time to be ill!” He was first in in the morning and last to leave at night after the glasses had been washed and put away and everything safely locked up. We had known Ernie for so long that we all regarded him as a friend. Yet as he did not give too much away about himself we soon discovered nobody really knew him that well. Alan happened to be standing at the bar and so took the phone call from the hospital. Putting down the receiver, white as a sheet, he turned to announce: “Ernie has just died!” No-one knew he was ill, let alone in hospital! “Why ring here” we asked “Why not ring his family?” Apparently he did not have any family. We later found out that he had never married but lived in his parent’s two up – two down house as the only child, all these years. The hall, his historical research, the books articles and newsletters he wrote were his life and we were the only family he had. We paid for his funeral and made sure that he had a good send off. That was the least we could do for him. But there was still a nagging doubt; could we, should we have done more? For all his outward appearance Ernie was a very private person, reluctant to accept help but, yes, I think we could have made a greater effort to get to know him better. After all, he didn’t deserve to die alone in a hospital bed.
Our friends, our neighbours are valuable gifts of God to us. Let us not take them for granted but as Jesus commanded us: Love your neighbour as yourself Matthew 22:39(NIV).
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years