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What Not to Say to Your Neighbors

One of my most vivid memories of a neighbor who made a difference comes from our time living in South Carolina.

My husband was deployed and I had four children under the age of seven. I wasn't feeling well, the car broke down that day and had to be towed home from an hour away.

It was about 6:00pm when I finally crawled to my bed; I can’t remember a time I was so sick. I couldn’t even think about how or what to feed the kids. The five-year-old would have to be in charge that night, I’d decided.

JoLynn lived across the street and attended our neighborhood Bible study. She had three young boys and her life was crazy busy. We knew each other through casual conversation and by virtue of living in close proximity on a military base.

I would not have answered the phone when it rang, except I thought it might be my husband calling from Timbuktu (or wherever in the world he was). And I thought that in between throwing up, I could tell him thanks for leaving me and all God’s children at this particular time. (That’s how we affectionately refer to our funny kids.)

It was not my husband; it was JoLynn and she could tell I was not doing well.

The next thing I know, I could faintly hear her coming into my bedroom and whispering to me that she was taking my four children, six-month-old included, to her house for dinner and to spend the evening.

To this day, every time I think of an example of a good neighbor, I think of JoLynn. I think of her actions and her words; however, I also think about the words she did NOT say to me.

I recently had an unexpected surgery and was in recovery mode for a few weeks. This is a text message I received from my friend and former neighbor, Kathy. “Hey, we are going to send dinner over tomorrow night. Would you like pizza or something else?”

Here’s what Kathy and JoLynn did not say: “Hey, sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Let me know if you need anything.”

Think back to the last time someone left you with those words. If you’re like me, you probably think those are nice words, but they are void of any real meaning.

As neighbors, and friends, let’s move from “let me know if you need anything” to looking to see what the need might be and being proactive to meet that need. Perhaps next time we see a friend in need, we might say, “I know you haven’t had much time with your husband lately. I’m going to feed and entertain your children for a few hours this weekend. What time works for you?” Or, “I’m bringing you a treat from Starbucks this afternoon. What’s your favorite drink?” Or, “I made an extra dish of spaghetti for you tonight. What time would you like me to bring it over?”

If the need isn’t obvious, then write a card or bring a cupcake or flowers, something that says you care and are thinking about them. And just maybe leave the meaningless words at home this time.

Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God. -Hebrews 13:16


Tony Ray Smith on 9/25/18 10:18pm

Simply put, Amen! Thanks for sharing.