The sudden death of a neighbor motivates me to share my thoughts about the importance of creating bonds outside the confines of our front doors.
Bill, our across-the-street neighbor for some 27 years, died suddenly one morning while doing yard work. One minute he was by all appearances healthy and fit….the next minute he collapsed. A passing driver pulled over, immediately called 911 and tried to administer CPR. The EMT crew came quickly. Bill’s own son was one of the first responders, but nothing could be done to revive him. With is dear wife and son by his side, Bill’s last vision of this life was looking upward through the trees.
This gentle man in his 60’s was warm, friendly and deeply devoted to his family, church missions and work as a rural land broker. A week would not pass when I did not see Bill. We would wave in greeting, and more often than not, we would cross the street to have a talk about whatever came to mind.
I watched Bill’s children grow to adulthood, as he did ours. If I had a question about some fix-it task, Bill always gave good counsel, had the right tool for the job, and would insist on helping me with a smile of recognition that I would likely not get it right by myself. And how right he was about that! My nightmare phrase has always been “some assembly required.”
Of course we don’t always get to know our neighbors, and in some cases have no liking for them. But I’ve observed over the years that since we drive more and walk less, move around more than our parents and grandparents did, and tend to “keep to ourselves” for privacy. Given our busy lives and w ith so many entertainment and technology options in our own homes, even knowing the names of the people who live nearby is rare.
Isolation at any age and stage of life is not good. While I’m a firm believer in taking time to self-reflect, I think the social side of our lives is where we spark our best ideas and grow our strongest relationships. I’m pleased to be a “relationship collector” as I create new friendships and nurture the positive relations I’ve been graced to have over the years. Keeping in contact is a source of joy for me, and whenever an opportunity arises to have a reunion with someone, I do my best to make it happen. Have you noticed?
I also believe that knowing our family and community histories, appreciating the sacrifice of those who preceded us, and reaching out to nurture a new generation of positive young people to help them achieve their potential are among our highest callings. No matter our home address, work status, or unique hobbies and interests, I believe we are all in the process of building legacy…one decision, one day, and one relationship at a time.
While there is ample evidence of animosity, anger and negativity in our world, I subscribe to the emotional antidote summarized by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their classic Beatles song All You Need Is Love. Here are the simple yet profound lyrics… http://allspirit.co.uk/allyouneed.html
Please take every opportunity to tell someone that they are loved, and make every effort to express yourself in positive words and deeds that uplift, edify and energize relationships.And when we are faced with circumstances that challenge us, it’s so important to take a breath, pause for a moment to think of the bigger picture, and find opportunities to balance life’s ups and downs with a fresh and positive perspective.
Resolve to be the most positive person in the room and hope someone else dares to compete with you! Now that’s a game I think is worth playing.
Jack Levine, Founder4Generations Institute. Director of the GRANDPartners for GRANDParents Program