Simple Acts: The Unsung Power of a Fantastic Neighbor

When my husband, Paul, and I bought our first house, we could not have asked for nicer next-door neighbors than Becky and Greg and their two boys. Within days of our moving in that February, they brought over a plate of cookies to welcome us into the neighborhood.

That spring I started to garden, and I must understand Becky through casual discussions struck as we functioned outside. She was older than I had been, and we were very distinct, but we made each other laugh, and it had been not possible not to enjoy Becky.

My son, Christopher, was only a baby when we moved in, but as soon as he started to walk Becky told me she had talked with Greg, and they were going to be on the watch for Christopher when pulling into or backing out of their driveway. I knew Becky was a kind lady, but this seemed incredibly so. Of course, it was in her interest to stop from running over my boy, but it was her attitude that struck me.

Whereas I’ve been annoyed at the thought of this constance vigilance, she did not appear to mind somewhat. She was genuinely worried about Christopher’s security and waved away my thanks. It was nothing what neighbors do.

ZeroEnergy Design

However, I was so thankful. We were in the beginning of a journey. He was a late walker — taking his first steps in 16 months — but once he began, he went directly to running and did not stop for years.

Summer time that he was 2 going on 3 years old, I spent the vast majority of each of my days chasing him around our home — literally. When the infant, my daughter Lydia, was napping, ” I strove to garden.

I kept Christopher right with me with his own little gear, but when I looked down for a moment he was away. As soon as I noticed, I’d guess which way he travelled and run after him. He was usually enough before me to be turning a corner just before I turned the one behind, so that he was constantly out of sight, a situation like a dreadful version of Tom and Jerry. He had a hearing loss, but I shouted his name before I grabbed him.

One evening I made it all the way around the home and thought, “This is it I need to call 911,” when somebody called my name. Coming around the corner was Becky holding Christopher’s hand.

“I had been upstairs, but I noticed you call ‘Christopher’ one too many occasions,” she explained.

“Is everything all perfect?” Shouted another neighbor, an older girl down the block. She had been standing on her front porch in the ready. Certainly she also had heard me calling too many occasions.

“We’re all right!” I cried back. “He’s right here. Thank you” She waved and then went back indoors.

I understand it was a small thing for each of those women, but I rank up their actions there since some of the kindest things anyone has ever done. They meant the world to me. This was 15 years ago, and I still can’t tell this story without yelling.

Later that summer Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been working in my garden one morning when she came over to speak. It was before she began chemotherapy. “I asked Greg if he’d shave his head with me, and he said no!” She had been laughing. Without even thinking I said, “I’ll do it”

She stopped and looked at me. “Oh, Alison, you do not need to do that …”

“However, I want to!” I mentioned.

“Oh, so I can’t ask you to,” she explained. She hadn’t asked me I had been offering, but I did not wish to create a big deal about it and let it drop.

Becky began chemotherapy and her hair started to thin and fall out. I had been reconsidering my offer; it wasn’t the true loss of hair which gave me pause, but the question of whether or not the gesture would help anything. I didn’t wish to make it. I talked it over with Paul. He’d had cancer as a boy and thought I should do it.

I waited until later we had a significant meeting with a physician about a surgery for Christopher. That night Paul shaved my mind. The next day I wrote a small notice for Becky and dropped it off on her front porch. Walking back into my home, I met with her 6-year-old son in their own driveway. When he noticed my mind he froze.

“Did you get cancer” he asked.

I told him I’d shaved my head to reveal his mom I cared about her, along with his torso visibly relaxed and he exhaled.

Once Becky read my letter, we had a small cry together and that was that. Later that fall Christopher had his surgery with a few complications which turned an overnight hospital stay into a week, but he recovered and was soon flourishing. Becky made it through, too — I can’t remember how soon after, but her cancer was gone, and she had been in remission. A couple of years later we moved away, and I’m sorry to say we did not stay connected; we were at these busy times of existence. And as odd as this sounds, we were not really friends, only very good neighbors.

At the home we proceeded to our neighbors were far away. The former owner was kind enough to present us into the nearest ones, and everyone was friendly. There was a retired gentleman who lived about a mile away but owned a small hobby farm just across the street. We must know him quite well, because my children begged me every day to go see the horses.

One couple lived back into the woods behind our home; we would meet in our mailboxes or whenever they have been walking their dog. We’d have convivial discussions, but they have been rare and fairly short. The exception was that the first year we had our puppy, Jack. He managed to break out despite our fencing at least once every week and make a beeline for our neighbors’ home. We would find him sitting at the drive with one of their black Lab’s toys in his mouth, ready to play. Fortunately they were dog lovers and easygoing, normally, so that they did not mind.

Back then, if you’d asked me, I’d have told you I did not really have any neighbors, at least not the borrow-a-cup-of-sugar selection, but then, as regular readers know, my house burnt.

Union Studio, Architecture & Community Design

We were all home and in bed and escaped with the clothes on our backs. The sheriff, who had been the first responder, called Paul’s older sister, who picked us up in the scene. Later Paul and I returned into the home to speak to the fire investigator. People continually stopped by to check when we were OK and to offer assist. One older woman hurried out of her vehicle and ran across the driveway, her arms wide open.

“Is everyone safe?” She cried, embracing me.

I nodded and fell into her arms, never really knowing who she was.

“Thank God! Thank God!” She explained. We clutched each other and sobbed. And then — as fast as she arrived — she let go and dashed back to her vehicle. Only later did I remember that she was a distant neighbor whom Christopher and I’d met while walking Jack. Later she returned, handed me a big, fat check and dashed off again.

Another neighbor found that the home on the way to church. Once she knew we were safe, she returned to her house, called the Red Cross and packed a bag of clothes for me as well as one for Paul. She loaded everything into our borrowed car and handed me a pen and notebook, all of which I tried to divert since we’d savings, we’d insurance; we were fine.

“What do you need?” So many people asked.

I wanted to say nothing, but I then recalled something Becky had said when she had been undergoing chemotherapy and I’d asked her how I could help. “Anything anybody does for my children helps me”

So I explained, “Gift cards for books. For the children.” This was how I started to receive and for a time it felt as though everyone was our good neighbor.

There are lots of distinct ways to become a fantastic neighbor but it starts simply: I see your requirement. I would like to help. I’m here.

More: How to Make Your House a Haven With Changing a Thing

See related