The lady who lives next door to us is voting for the wrong person. At least, that’s what I think. A couple of times, our conversations have moved toward political issues and the apparent qualities of the presidential candidates and judging by some of her statements, she doesn’t think the way I do . . . except . . .
. . . that she does. In fact, she thinks better than I do. When Vicki and I went to the Northwest in May, we asked her to keep an eye on our outdoor plants. When we returned, they’d been watered just as we asked, but she’d also mowed our lawn, weeded the shrubs along the front of the house, and sprayed herbicide on the most persistent weeds. “You did too much,” exclaimed Vicki.
“Hey!” our neighbor responded, “I’ve got your back. I enjoyed it.” Vicki and I were glad that we’d brought her a thank-you gift from Seattle.
When we went to New Mexico, we asked her to water the plants again. I told her that she didn’t need to cut the grass. She did anyway and upon our return, told me that she enjoyed it. Don’t tell her not to do things she enjoys doing. “Please! ALWAYS ask me. I’ve got your back!”
Then we went to Maine in October. I went into a specialty store in St. Johnsbury, Vermont and bought a quart of genuine maple syrup for her because I knew she’d take care of things. When we got home, it was as we’d expected. The plants looked great, and our neighbor had even made sure that the recycling bin had been deployed and returned, something we’d not mentioned but she noticed. She wasn’t at home when I took over the syrup, but I saw her a few days later and she told me that her kids were now spoiled. All they wanted was pancakes with genuine maple syrup. “It’s all gone,” she said with a wide smile.
“I’m glad y’all enjoyed it so much,” I said. “You’ve done so much for us.”
“Hey,” she said, “I’ve got your back – syrup or no syrup.” Then she paused, “But if you bring us more of that syrup, I won’t complain.”
I really want to take care of her yard when they go out of town, but as she told me once, “We never go anywhere – and won’t until the 14 year-old graduates.” So, the next time we go north, I’m looking for some syrup.
When I was a chaplain resident at the University of Louisville in the Department of Psychiatry, my mentor Wayne Oates taught us about the insights of a scholar named Otto Rank. He summed up Rank’s theories by stating, “The fact remains that human beings are far more alike than they are different.”
My generous neighbor and we have a common life. We have plants to water, laundry to do, grass to cut, groceries to buy, and house payments to make. When Vicki and I were sitting on our patio a couple of nights ago, our neighbor popped through the side gate of our yard and sat down with us. She’d brought along a glass of white wine and while Vicki and I enjoyed our red Cotes du Rhone, we talked about our kids. It was abundantly clear that both our families love our kids the best we can and then fret about releasing them into a world where they’ll hear the opposite of what we taught them. We helplessly pray that the world won’t cut our beloved sons and daughters down in the middle of their hopes and dreams, and we’ve both known that desperate ache in the chest when we learned that a loved one had been diagnosed with a threatening disease. We share so much.
In fact, every single person we encounter as we move through life shares more with us than not. Every single one of us needs to know that our neighbor “has our back.”
There are a number of things our legislators could do to heal the profound rifts we see in our governing institutions. I hope they can become adult enough to pull it off. In the meantime, I’m confident that when I’m out of town, my neighbor “has my back,” and she will do that faithfully – despite the fact that she knows I voted for the wrong person.