“Falling” Opportunities

I love October. It’s my favorite month, and not just because of my birthday.

I enjoy the changing seasons, and the promise of approaching holidays. Beyond that, October brings with it numerous opportunities to reach out to neighbors, to connect – or reconnect – with those around us.

The cooler weather is perfect for going for a walk through your neighborhood. This, in turn, provides opportunities to bless your neighbors through something called a prayer walk.

A prayer walk simply means to walk around your neighborhood, praying as you go. (Some of us had to learn that it’s okay, at least in these circumstances, to pray with our eyes OPEN!) Just pray for your neighbors – by name, if you know it. If not, God knows who lives in that house, and He’s okay with you just offering a basic prayer of blessing over that home and all who live there. Don’t forget to ask God for discernment about how to pray for people.

While you’re out walking, you may meet some of your neighbors who are also out for a walk. Engage them in conversation, and if the opportunity arises, ask them how you can pray for them. (This may seem somewhat unusual, but very few people will object to having someone pray for them!)

Another idea – autumn, of course, means falling leaves and tree limbs. Are there senior adults that you know of who could use some help in cleaning up their yard? It doesn’t have to be an all day job. Just a few minutes raking and picking up small, dead branches can go a long way towards improving the overall appearance of a yard. And I’m sure it will be warmly appreciated.

One of my favorite things about fall is that we get to eat more delicious “comfort” food – soups, stews, chili, etc. The next time you make a pot of stew or chili, why not take a bowl of it over to an older adult or other neighbor? Or better yet, invite them into your home to share a meal together. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and in reaching out to them as a friend, you may just make a friend yourself.

Do you like to bake? Perhaps you could make some Halloween cookies or pumpkin bread and take some to the neighbors around you. Almost everyone loves home-baked goodies, and it’s a great way to introduce yourself and begin a conversation.

Every new season brings with it opportunities and challenges for reaching out, making friends, being a good neighbor – these are just a few suggestions that I have used. Try it! And who knows? Your new friends may just be waiting for you to knock on their door.

Hail and High Water

2014-06-12 18.08.52Our neighborhood was among those that got pounded by the hail last week. As you probably know, there were dozens of homes and hundred of cars that received significant damage, and even a number of people who were seriously injured.

But it wasn’t all bad.

The storm itself was rather freakish. This wasn’t one of those clouds where the TV weather guys are tracking it for hours and monitoring its progress; it blew up over Haskell County, intensified as it headed south over Jones County, and then arrived. I was watching Sam, and the first warnings I heard came about 30 minutes before it got here. Enough time to take cover, certainly, but still, there were a LOT of people caught by surprise.

T2014-06-12 18.08.39he size was the hail was stunning. Tennis ball and baseball was common; a lot of what fell was the size of softballs, grapefruit, and even CDs. You can look at the holes it punched through car windows and tell it was monstrous. And the duration was even scarier – this wasn’t a typical thunderstorm where it hails for a minute and a half. This went on. And on. Fifteen minutes or more at my house. The hail pounding the house sounded like gunfire.

One of our cars was under the carport, and it wasn’t damaged. But another one will likely be totaled. Our son Travis’ car had the back window shattered; our other son, Drew, was at work downtown and had several windows on his pickup smashed. We also had several windows here at the house broken, and we received significant roof damage.

It wasn’t just us. Nearly all of our neighbors received as much, or more damage, than we did. In addition, the North Park Friendship House was hit harder than us, with holes actually punched through the roof. The Valley View Friendship House had some damage, and their community garden was beaten back into the ground.

And yet, I’m thankful.

Right after the storm, we were going through the neighborhood, checking on folks, and we found lots of neighbors out doing the same thing. Neighbors looking after neighbors. “Are you okay?” “Was anyone hurt?” We found one neighbor with a bruised face and a black eye at another neighbor’s house; she had been out walking when the storm hit, and was struck in the face by a hailstone. The neighbor brought her into his house; he and his wife helped her and they waited out the storm together.

Other neighbors were sharing lumber, tools, tarps, plastic. Folks were digging out bungee cords to strap down tarps over cars. There was a run on duct tape. People were out in their yards, talking with each other, thankful to have made it through, and looking for ways to help.

Something about going through the storm as neighbors – the shared experience of surviving huge chunks of ice pummeling your house at 125 mph – actually brought people together. Even as the sun came out and a giant rainbow appeared, people were already beginning to clean up, visiting with each other and helping one another. Family members and friends from other parts of town began showing up, bringing food, supplies and helping hands.

2014-06-13 09.52.32As you drive through the neighborhood today, there’s still plenty of visible damage. My yard still has holes punched all in it, two and three inches wide and a couple of inches deep. The streets are covered in white speckles, evidence of the amount and intensity of the hail strikes. There are still lots of tarps and plastic covering broken windows, and you can see cars all over town with shattered windshields. I’m concerned for the friends who don’t have insurance, and don’t know how they will get the economic resources to get back on their feet. It will be months before most of the damage is repaired, and the economic toll will certainly run into the millions.

But it’s good to see neighbors working together, talking with one another and helping others. It’s good to see people sharing concern as they share duct tape. The bond of going through this storm together is real, and I hope it lasts.

I’m just sorry we had to get hit over the head to make it happen.