The best block in town

I was closing the blinds at 9 pm the day after my dad died when I heard a faint knock at the door. When I opened it, a lovely young woman in scrubs—who I'd never seen before—was standing there. I saw that there was an ambulance here the other night, and I've been praying. Is everything okay? My mom came to the door and shared the news. My husband fell down the stairs, and he died. Instantly I saw it in the young woman's face, a look I'd see countless times over the days and weeks ahead: pain, compassion, gentleness, care. A perfect mix of love.

As we continued talking, I soon found out that this woman's name was Sarah, and she lived across the street, and she was a nurse. A nurse at the hospital where my dad died. He likely would have been her patient if he had survived.

This is the way God has been working. Things like this have been happening practically on the daily. He has been proving His love to me in the most wondrous ways. And it seems that one of His favorite ways happens to be through my neighbors, my literal neighbors, the ones who live on my block. A few days after Sarah came to our door, there was another knock and there she was again, this time with her fiancé (now husband!) Justin and roommate Melody. Melody had baked us a chicken pot pie with three perfect hearts on top. There she was, another stranger on our doorstep, offering her support and condolences in the form of a home-cooked meal.

And there have been countless other forms. There's the weekly lawn mowing from Oren, and Mike when Oren's away. Kim's regular trips to Trader Joe's. Eggs from Laurie and muffins from Janice and pumpkin bread from Jordan. A ride to Mass and a loaner laptop from Katherine and Andrew. Heavy lifting from Tom. Visits from Natalie and her dog Indiana, who loved my dad and still misses him, I think.

The day of my dad's funeral, I found myself sitting in the driveway for what became the most glorious spontaneous neighbor gathering. First, it was me and Natalie and Indiana. Soon after, my mom appeared. Then, little Maor and Naomi from next door wandered over. They'd both spoken at the reception in front of the crowd about the fun they'd had with my dad. I'm so proud of you for talking on the microphone! I told them. Were you scared? Then Doug and Janice drove by. Can we join? They brought along folding chairs and their son Hayden, who I babysat when he was a newborn and who was just about to move away to college. Then Oren and Laurie widened the circle, bringing their dinners. Dinner party! Naomi exclaimed as she bit into her hot dog. We passed around bug spray and brownies. We talked about the neighborhood and the state of the world and lots in between. The sky got dark as we chatted and laughed and listened to the silence.

My dad would have loved this, I thought. For he loved these neighbors of ours. He spent the last days of his life weeding in the front yard, pulling up stubborn roots for hours right along the curb, greeting every walker and every dog passing by. He learned their names and listened to their stories and let every last dog lick his face, no doubt. And now that I've returned, it is an honor, a joy, to be loving these neighbors of ours myself, and to be loved by them.

I have no doubt of it—this truly is the best block in town.




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