(Encore post from my archives)
In this self-centered society in which we live, with its insulation from one another because of social networking sites online where everyone pursues his own high-tech individual pursuits, it would seem that we don’t have time or occasion to know our neighbors face to face. People who live in high-rise beehive apartments in urban areas put multiple locks and chains on their doors and often don’t speak to people who live down the hall in their own “cells” behind closed doors. Fear of strangers often pulls them into seclusion.
Even when people live, as I do, in a more relaxed suburban development of quiet, five-acre wooded lots on a cul-du-sac, we might be hard pressed to name the people who live within sight of our own driveway. If we walk for exercise, as I do, we may know the canines and felines who live behind fences or electrified borders of well-manicured lawns. However, we may know little about the needs and problems of the people who own the pets.
We are all so busy in the particular orbit of our routine lives that knowing our neighbors doesn’t even make it to our list of priorities. Until an emergency vehicle speeds by, and then we may wonder to whose house it is headed. As it did last week.
In my private prayer each morning I ask God, "This day bring into my life everything and everyone whomever You choose--in person, by letter, e-mail, phone call, thought, impression, prayer, event, or in the course of my responsibilities or circumstances for today. Since they are filtered through Your perfect will, help me recognize such encounters, interruptions, and changes as not accidental or incidental. They are my opportunities and Your appointments for me this day."
People may come into our lives for a season but always for a reason. I've tried to live by the principal that when God brings someone into my life, however briefly, it is either to contribute something good to me, or that I may build something good into his or her life.
One of my neighbors down the block came to my door unexpectedly one morning. We had a few contacts through the years but we really knew each other only casually. On a few occasions we met on our exercise walk along our quiet street. I was surprised to see her when she rang my doorbell. She asked if she could talk to me and of course I welcomed her warmly.
She was a deeply troubled woman with serious emotional problems coupled with some traumatic but not life-threatening physical challenges which had thrown her into dark depression. A beautiful woman with a professional career, she despaired that she had nothing to live for. I asked if I might pray with her and she consented. We hugged and shared some tears, but I sensed some unseen barrier, some seemingly insurmountable struggle that I couldn't penetrate. I assured her that I was there for her and suggested we talk again soon.
I had a busy week or two and didn't follow up on our encounter, although I remembered to pray for her, my neighbor. One day while working at my computer, I was startled to see through the window several rescue emergency vehicles speeding by. Where could they be headed?
An hour later I received a phone call. My neighbor had taken her own life!
In the throes of my own deep emotional shock, I took it personally. I went over and over a roster of "what ifs" and "I should haves." I was blindsided by this turn of events and now it was too late. I admit that I beat myself up about the tragic choice my neighbor made. No, I didn't turn her away in her time of need, but neither did I follow through and reach out further to her.
Her choice was so, so sad, but I have to accept that it was ultimately her choice. I have to leave her to God and trust Him and pray for her immortal soul. I believe that God's incredibly generous mercy and forgiving love covers such happenings when a person's reason is clouded by depression. God knew her heart. I must realize that to focus on "I could have done more" is not always amenable to rational argument.
But where did I miss God's guidance? Or did I? I can't go there. I can't turn back the clock. Perhaps I needed to lay it all out and now I have to lay it all down at the foot of Jesus' cross. I must move on and pray henceforth to become more sensitive, more discerning, and let God show me "Who is my neighbor?" and what He would have me do and say and pray.