Hello, I Must Be Going

A little over two years ago, my family and I moved into a beautiful, spacious home on Abilene’s far north side, to continue doing the work of meeting neighbors, building relationships, and serving the community. It has been a very enjoyable time, we love this house, and we have made some wonderful friends among our neighbors in the North Park neighborhood.

npfh-sw-1And we’re leaving.

About a year ago, my colleagues and I at CCC began asking some very hard questions about ourselves and the work we are doing in Abilene neighborhoods; the result of those conversations was to decide that as an organization, we were not being as effective as we would like to be. The work of building relationships is great work, but relationships in and of themselves will not bring about the kind of community renewal that we all want to see. Creating the social capital of bringing neighbors together is great, but you have to then “invest” that social capital in ways that make sense.

npfh-se-2Part of the way CCC had been doing things was to have several community coordinators – that’s my “official” job title – and place each coordinator in a separate neighborhood. Some of those neighborhoods were small; some were enormous. Some coordinators enjoyed focusing on kids and families; some were more interested in working on “bigger picture” issues. All of us wanted to bring about the “safe, caring, whole community” our mission statement envisions – we just weren’t sure that the strategy we were following was going to get us there.

We talked with a lot of people. We read books from numerous experts in this field. We sought input and approval from our board. And at the end of that process, we decided that what was needed was for all the coordinators to live in the same neighborhood, so that we could more effectively work together – to share the load and to take advantage of our various gifts and talents, and also to support each other, so that one individual was not having to be responsible for an entire neighborhood by himself or herself.

From there, we naturally began to ask, “Which neighborhood?” And again, following a lot of discussion, we settled on College Heights as being the most logical choice. The irony, of course, is that College Heights is the neighborhood where my family and I lived for over six years, in the old Friendship House there, before we moved to North Park. For a lot of reasons, though, College Heights makes the most sense as the place to refocus our team efforts. We talked with our partners; we talked with our funders.

Then I had to confirm to my family that we were, indeed, going to have to leave this beautiful house.

There have been a lot of logistics in all this. Buy or rent? New or old? How large? Which section of the neighborhood? We searched for over eight months, until we finally found a small house in the southeastern part of College Heights that we think will work for us. It’s currently being re-habbed, and we should be able to start moving sometime by mid-October.

To be honest, we’re not sure what will be happening with the North Park Friendship House. It could become CCC’s administrative offices, and continue to serve as a venue for neighborhood events; there are other options as well. Certainly, we want to carry on the wonderful relationship we have had with Hardin-Simmons University, and CCC is definitely planning to have an ongoing presence in the North Park neighborhood.

This move will be an adjustment for our family, to be sure. Like many older homes, our new house has precious little storage space, so we’re having to downsize and get rid of a bunch of stuff. It’s a two bedroom home with a living room and dining room, but less than half of the square footage of our current home, and certainly without the large community room for hosting events. It will take some getting used to, but it will be fine, and I’m looking forward to renewing friendships with some of the neighbors in that immediate area, and to making new friends, too.

I’m especially looking forward to continuing to partner with my CCC colleagues, to loving neighbors in Jesus’ name, and to helping build a stronger, safer, better community by building relationships one neighbor, one home, one block at a time.

So, farewell, North Park. You have blessed us and welcomed us into your lives, and we’ve enjoyed being your neighbors for the last couple of years.  We look forward to continuing as friends. And hello again, College Heights. It’s good to be back.

Here we go.

 

 

 

The National Game of Texas

In 1887, in the tiny North Texas town of Trappe Spring, two young boys had a problem. Twelve-year-old William Thomas and 14-year-old Walter Earl both really liked playing cards – not games of gambling, but trick-taking card games similar to Bridge, Spades, Whist, and the like. The problem was, both young men came from devout Baptist families, and playing cards was absolutely forbidden. What to do?

Playing dominoes was allowed in their homes, but the boys found regular dominoes to be, well, boring. So they set out to invent a new game, using the strategy and skill of their favorite card games, but utilizing dominoes instead of the sinful pasteboards. After a few months of trial and error, they had their game, which they taught to their families. Their families enjoyed this new game, and taught it to their neighbors. They liked it, too.

When their families moved to Fannin County, they took the game with them, and taught it to their new neighbors. It caught on there, too, and gradually spread across the whole state. And thus was born “The National Game of Texas” – 42.

domino-square_0Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Texans of all backgrounds and social levels would meet to play. In rural communities and big cities, neighbors would bring covered dishes to someone’s house on Saturday nights after work, and eat together. Then, after the dishes were done and while the kids played outside, the grown-ups would sit and sip their sweet iced tea (these are mostly Baptists, remember!), and play 42. The game was played in homes, at churches, on picnics, and around campfires.

When the Texas boys went off to World War II, they took the game with them. There are lots of stories about G.I.s teaching the game to their buddies from New York and California. But at its heart, it was – and is – a Texas game, officially recognized by the state legislature as the “Official Domino Game of Texas.”

And although some think of it as a game for older people, it’s actually making a comeback among younger players. In fact, every year in Halletsville, there is a state championship, to crown the best “42” player in the state.

Like many great games, 42 is easy to learn and hard to master. The game is played with four people – two teams of two people each. You draw seven dominoes, then you bid on how many “tricks” you can take for your team. There’s a total of 42 points for each round – hence, the name. Knowing how to bid well is the key to being a good player.

winning 42If you want to know more about the history and strategy of playing 42, you need to get a copy of Winning 42: Strategy & Lore of the National Game of Texas, by Dennis Roberson. There are also online versions of the game, where you can practice against computer-generated players.

The competition, skill and strategy of a well-played game is certainly enjoyable. But for many, the real pleasure of the game is the time spent with friends – the fun of getting together with neighbors to talk, to visit, and to share life together.

We played “regular” dominoes in my family when I was growing up, not 42, but a few years ago, I got to play a few hands when I was visiting a friend at her nursing home. Then last month, the teenagers of our “Young Leaders of Abilene” group were helping out at Cobb Park’s monthly game night, and there were some folks there playing 42. As I sat and watched, I remembered how much fun the game was. I began talking with some of my neighbors, and sure enough, discovered that several of them are devotees of the game.

So, coming up on Saturday, April 2, (4/2 – get it?), several neighbors and friends will get together here at the North Park Friendship House. We’ll set up tables, get out the dominoes, choose up teams, and play 42. At some point, we’ll stop long enough to eat, then we’ll play some more. Are you a 42 player, or do you know someone who is? Come join us.

William and Walter would be proud.

God Helps

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately studying the parables, in connection with the Bible class I’m teaching on Sunday mornings. Last week, we looked at the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Luke 16:19-31. (Go ahead and get your Bible – I’ll wait. Or click here to open another window with that text.)

One of the first controversies people get bogged down in concerns whether this is a fictional parable, or a true story that Jesus somehow knew through His divine awareness. The argument has often been made that it must be about real people, since Jesus calls “Lazarus” by name – something He does in no other known parable.

I must respectfully disagree. “Lazarus” is a form of the Hebrew name, “Eleazar,” which means, “God helps.” It was a very common name, and doesn’t have to mean anything other than a good storyteller giving a fictional character a familiar name. In fact, its significance may be in its Hebrew meaning: the rich man had many resources on which he could rely, but this poor man’s only help was from God.

One thing that I’ve learned in my recent study of the parables – people use them to preach and teach all sorts of screwy things. Many interpreters seem to regard the words of Jesus as a blank screen onto which they can project whatever point of view they’re wishing to promote.

That’s especially true with this text. To one writer, this story is the perfect opportunity to preach that the actions we take in this life have permanent, eternal consequences. Another guy used it to talk about the reality of a literal heaven and a literal hell. Others had even more far-fetched interpretations. Now, some of what these guys say is undoubtedly true, but in my opinion, they miss the point Jesus is trying to make.

To understand His point, we have to back up a few verses in the chapter. Earlier in Luke 16, Jesus had been speaking about having the right priorities when it comes to money, and understanding that our money is an asset, a tool, that God has given us, and we must be wise and responsible in using that tool for God’s glory. In Luke 12:21, He talked about the foolishness of storing up wealth for oneself, but failing to become “rich toward God.”

Meanwhile, the Pharisees, “who loved money” (Luke 16:14), were “sneering” at Jesus. They had totally bought into a version of what is today called the “prosperity gospel:” the idea that God rewards His followers materially, and that earthly riches are a sign of God’s favor. (There are plenty of TV preachers and others today who audaciously proclaim this same falsehood.) But it is in response to the cynical, sneering Pharisees that Jesus tells this story.

His point, in my opinion, was to teach that we have a responsibility to use our money, as well as our time, our talents, our possessions, and whatever else God may have given us, in such a way as to glorify Him. If we use our wealth only to make ourselves comfortable – as this man did – then we have failed to love God with “all our heart,” and we have certainly failed to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Lazarus, according to the story, hung out every day near the rich man’s garbage cans, hoping just to eat the scraps that were being thrown out. His only companions were the stray dogs that he competed against for dinner. Did the rich man know he was there? Did he even see him?

It’s easy to condemn the rich man for his failures, even as we let ourselves “off the hook.” But Jesus doesn’t let us off that easy. Many of us have become quite skilled at NOT seeing those around us. Who are the needy among us? Who are the friendless near us? Who is the co-worker that just wants someone to talk to? Who is the neighbor living in unwanted isolation, hoping for a knock on the door? We rationalize our failure to help; we excuse ourselves by thinking about the “wrong choices” that “the poor” have made, to put them where they are.

Do we know that? And even if we do, are we really that self-righteous and smug? Is that how God treated us? In another place, Jesus talked about the need to remove the plank in our own eye before we worry about the speck in our brother’s eye. Many of us are quick to give ourselves “grace” for the wrongs we have done; can we not find some grace to help others?

Ultimately, in the story, Lazarus was “helped” by God. May God “help” each of us to see and reach out to those around us.

“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.

Thoughts While Mowing

Let me make this clear: I don’t like mowing.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, mowing isn’t all that bad. And I’ve heard many people say that they enjoy it – they find it relaxing and stress-relieving, something they can do without having to think about it, to let their minds unwind for a while. That’s fine.

Me, I’d rather be watching trains. Or reading. Or visiting with a friend. Or doing lots of other things. But, mowing is one of those things that we nearly all have to do, and I do. So while I was mowing my yard the other day, I came up with a list of things to be thankful for while mowing.

Rain. This definitely tops the list. In a few more weeks, the West Texas summer will be here with all its searing heat and lack of moisture, and the yard will turn mostly brown. So while it’s green, I will be thankful for the showers.

Health. My health is far from perfect – I’m overweight, I have Type II Diabetes, and I don’t exercise nearly enough. Still, I’m healthy enough to be outside and do this work. Many of our neighbors would love to be healthy enough to mow their own yards, and so for that, I’m thankful.

Space. I have been blessed with a large lot and nice house to live in as part of my job. When I think about how much of the world’s population lives in housing smaller than my bedroom, it seems extremely ungrateful to complain about mowing. Talk about First World problems…

Tools. Along with the house, I have a riding mower to use, and also a push mower for areas where the big mower can’t reach. Again, these are definitely blessings for which I am thankful.

Resources. Of course, it takes money to buy the gas to run those things, and I have been given that. Another reason to be appreciative.

Peace. I can worry about needing to mow, because there are courageous men and women going in harm’s way to protect us. Let us never fail to give thanks for their valor and sacrifice.

Security. The mower was still where I had parked it after the last time I used it, at least partly because we have police officers who protect and serve our community. They are not perfect, and do not claim to be, but I’m thankful for their efforts.

So that’s my list. If I worked at it, I’m sure I could come up with more things to be thankful for while mowing. But for now, I think I’m going to take a break and get something cool to drink and sit in the shade for a while. Besides, I think I hear a train whistle somewhere…

On Thankfulness

2014-08-06 07.38.59And then there was one.

The house next door to us was hauled away a few days ago. The move had been in the works for a long time. The neighbors who used to live there have been gone for five years, and the house has long since been sitting empty. The movers put it up on I-beams some time ago, and we knew it was just a matter of time until they hooked up a big truck and took it away.

But it was still a bit of a surprise to drive up Hickory Street the other day and see a big empty lot where a nice house once stood. So now our house is the last one left on our part of North 17th Street.

Now, that’s not an altogether bad thing. The Texas Tech Health Science Center, just east of us, has announced exciting plans to expand their operations, to open a new School of Public Health and to build a new student center, which will certainly be a good thing for those studying there. We need people trained in public health issues, and goodness knows, we desperately NEED the nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers that will come from there.

The neighbors that used to live next door have moved a few blocks away, but we still see them, and the kids still participate in our activities here. (And the cats that used to live under the house there – well, I’m sure they’ve found new homes as well!) But it’s still sad to see an empty lot where a friend’s house once stood. And it’s sad to think about the good times and fellowship we had with those around us, who are now gone.

Life goes on. We learn, fairly early on, that change is part of life. We cannot hold on to the present, no matter how hard we try. Nothing is this life is permanent. Neighbors move away – sometimes new neighbors move in. Jobs end. Children grow up and leave home. Parents grow old and die. That is the ultimate reality in this world.

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that no good thing in this life can be permanent – that’s part of God’s design. If we mistake the blessings that we have here for eternal joy, then we might forget that we were meant for higher, greater things. Blessings are meant to encourage us, to strength us, and yes, to BLESS us, but no blessing in this world is eternal.

So when a neighbor moves, or a house is gone, or any other blessing that we have been enjoying is taken away, we have two options. We can either become angry, sullen and depressed that it is gone. Or we be can be appreciative that we had that blessing to enjoy for a time, and give thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, trusting that He has even better blessings in store for us.

God give me the grace to choose to be thankful.

Holding On to Our Heritage

UP1996_borderAnyone who knows me well knows that I love trains. Real trains, model trains, amusement park trains – doesn’t matter. If it runs on rails, I want to see it, watch it, and ride it if I can.

I also happen to be a fan of history. I am fascinated by the past, by the forces that shaped our society and by the decisions that brought us to where we are today.

So I was thrilled when several railroads began repainting some of their newest and most powerful locomotives in the old, historic paint schemes of some of their predecessors. What’s not to love, right? It combines two of my favorite passions – history AND trains. (The photo shows a Union Pacific engine passing through Abilene, wearing the orange, red and black “Daylight” colors of the old Southern Pacific RR.)

I’m glad that some railroads are recognizing and honoring their history and their heritage, but it’s not just about trains. There is history worth hearing, all around us, in the neighborhoods where we live, and along the streets where we drive. Grandparents who can teach us, elders who can inspire us, and old buildings that can help us remember the struggles of the past.

Learning about the past doesn’t have to be boring. It’s a shame that so many history classes are being led by teachers who think that history is all about dates on a calendar. Truly, they are missing the point. History – real history – is about people and their stories.

Spend some time getting to know the older people on your block, or at your church. They have stories to tell. Another idea? If you’re in Abilene, go to the library and check out any of the fascinating series of DVDs produced by a GOOD history teacher, Abilene’s own Jay Moore, “History in Plain Sight.” You might want to start with his video, “Who is That Street?” It tells the story of the early settlers who came to Abilene, braved incredible hardships, and carved out a living for themselves and their families – and now we remember them by the streets we drive on. They are stories worth hearing.

Understanding something of our past reminds us that someone came before us and dreamed a dream, and we are the heirs of that legacy. It keeps us humble to realize that we are enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor, and it inspires us to work for those who will come after us – to leave something better for our children and our grandchildren.

Holding on to our heritage helps us know who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going. Remembering the past gives us hope for the future.

 

Seeking Shalom

One of the most fascinating Hebrew words in that language’s vocabulary is the word for “peace:” shalom. It can be used as a greeting, both at the meeting of friends, as well as leaving; when someone wants to ask, “How are you?”, the question is literally phrased, “How is your peace?” And a typical blessing would be, “Shalom aleikhem” – “Peace be unto you.”

Far more than just the absence of conflict, “shalom” can mean wholeness, health, or even prosperity, depending on its context. It refers to a sense of completeness and well-being in every phase of one’s life, but especially in terms of one’s relationships with others.

That’s why it’s so interesting to me that when God was warning the Israelites about the impending Babylonian captivity, God told them, “Seek the peace (shalom) of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7). In other words, God is telling them not to act like a bunch of strangers, but to settle down, live their lives, know their neighbors, and make a difference in the city there.

It seems to me that’s a message we need to hear today.

So many times people seem to not care about what’s happening in the lives of neighbors around them. Their attitude seems to be that they will go to work, go to church, care for their families, mow their yards, and they go about their business with a sort of, “You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone” attitude. Unfortunately, that’s not what God asked of them.

Even many Christians seem to approach life by saying, “This world stinks, life is not fair, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Heaven will be better, so let’s not worry about doing anything now, and God will make everything right in the sweet, by and by.” But when Jesus commanded His followers to pray to God, “Thy Kingdom come,” He meant NOW, not someday.

What things are going on around me that don’t look like the Kingdom of God? Is there any injustice? How can I speak up against it? Are there businesses that take advantage of people? Am I willing to spend more somewhere else, in order to work for justice?

What about loneliness? There will be no loneliness in the Kingdom of God. So who of my neighbors is lonely, and how can I be a better friend?

There are other examples, but you get the picture.

Of course, I certainly understand from the Christian point of view, that the Kingdom of God will not come in its full glory and power until Jesus returns. But that doesn’t let me off the hook for doing what I can, in the here and now, to work to bring it about, wherever and however I can.

The word “seek” implies action, activity and effort. Diligence and persistence. When you’re seeking something, you’re not going to be easily distracted or discouraged, and you don’t plan to give up until you get it. So if God tells us to seek shalom – peace – then that means we keep working, we keep striving, we keep dreaming, of a society where we enjoy peace and wholeness, health and well-being, in every phase of our lives.

The Bible calls Jesus the “Prince of Peace (Shalom),” and He has called His followers to be “peacemakers.” God promised that it was in seeking the peace and well-being of the city around us, that we would find peace and well-being in our own lives.

Shalom. st_francis_prayer_2

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.

Good Neighbors in Bad Times

Brad Carter, CCC’s former director, used to say that people can be in a neighborhood for years without ever knowing who’s doing the living and dying next door, across the street, and down the block. He was right.

Nobody likes to think about death, or dying, or any of the activities associated with that, but obviously, it happens. You’ve been meaning to get over to a particular neighbor’s house and introduce yourself, but you just haven’t done it yet. But one day, to your sadness, you notice a wreath on the door, and lots of people you haven’t seen before are going in and out of the house, with lots of cars up and down the street. What should you do? And if you go, what should you say?

Here’s a little secret – almost nobody knows what to say. But we should go anyway. And while I am certainly no expert, in the spirit of “neighborliness,” let me offer a few thoughts about some ways we can be a good neighbor at such times.

  • DO go visit them. When we lose someone we love, often we just need to know that others have noticed. A simple, brief visit is enough to convey that sentiment.
  • DO take some food. People often say they’re too upset to eat, but what they really mean is, they’re too upset to worry about preparing something to eat. And it doesn’t have to be fancy, or even homemade. A bag of chips, sandwich stuff, maybe a pan of brownies – these will be deeply appreciated.
  • DO make a memorial donation to their family’s favorite charity or local church. It doesn’t have to be a large amount – this is a case where it really is the thought that counts. A gift of even $10 or $20 in the deceased’s name is always deeply appreciated.

And on the other hand,

  • DON’T worry about what to say. All the eloquence in the world is not as important as simply being there. Just introduce yourself, mention that you are a neighbor, and say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” If they want to talk, by all means, engage in the conversation with them, but don’t feel like you have to keep on making small talk.
  • DON’T say, “I know how you feel.” This is not about you. Later, if you and your neighbor become friends, there will be plenty of time for sharing feelings. And it’s probably best not to ask a lot of questions. Again, if they want to talk, they will.
  • DON’T feel like you have to stay a long time. Five minutes is better than 30. This is not a social call, and the idea is simply to share a kind word and acknowledge their loss.

Losing a loved one is never easy. But just knowing that people around us notice and care can mean so much. So please, don’t be afraid to reach out – you may never know the difference you will make to someone who is hurting.