Within a community, other than the comfort of our families and the security of our homes, little makes us more at ease than the familiarity of our neighbors. A local insurance rep tells us that “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Television personality Mr. Rogers always welcomed his young viewers by asking “Won’t you be my neighbor?” And of course, Jesus advises us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But what happens when that neighbor, that familiarity is no longer there?
When the furnace expired and the basement flooded, the inevitable could not be postponed. After a few touch-ups and more than a few second guesses, the house went on the market—and came off three days later following an offer she could not refuse. At that point, no one could deny it any longer. Cathy was moving.
Cathy and her husband Bob had been our first neighbors, more than epitomizing the term neighbor as they lent us, the naïve new homeowners, their snowblower after a monstrous storm, collected the mail when we went away and stood “on-call” as babysitters for our two-year-old when her sister was on the way. And yes, we took in their mail too, checked on their black Lab that our daughters adored, and helped out here and there, though it always seemed we relied more on them than they did on us. “Love your neighbor”? That was never a problem; we seemed undeservingly blessed. As we outgrew our tiny Cape, making plans to move 12 years ago, Cathy allayed my doubts about leaving behind our beloved neighborhood with her gentle reminder that “God has a plan for us all.” What that plan was I did not know, but if she believed it, then so did I.
And now it was her turn. After losing Bob several years ago and keeping up with the house on her own, the time had come to pass it on to another young couple, ready to add new life to this neighborhood we had all at one time called home. My common sense and practicality, however, didn’t help to ease the realization that Cathy would no longer be there, but once again, she reminded me that “God has a plan for us all,” trusting that He would lead her to the right place. Though we had not been neighbors in that “next door” sense for more than a decade, we still met up in the aisles of the grocery store, chatted after Mass, and remained up-to-date on friends and acquaintances, our children and her grandchildren. And to this day, whenever I reference her in conversations with others, I do not use her full name or preface her with a vague “someone I know” but always call her “my neighbor Cathy.”
When we had our last visit (for a while) this week, I realized that is who she will always be – my neighbor Cathy. One doesn’t have to live next door, around the corner, or even in the same state to retain the privileged title of neighbor. The bonds we created over shared stories and the connections we forged through the desire for community reach beyond the confines of our former neighborhood. In that moment, I understood her mantra of “God has a plan for us all.” Part of that plan began 20 years ago when He brought her and her family into our lives—and never really allowed them to leave —as our neighbors and our friends.
As Cathy takes God’s plan to a new home, lucky those who find themselves with her living next door, expanding the sense of community she brought to us years ago. State Farm has nothing on her.
By Emily Clark