(Editor’s Note: Courtney Daniel is a detective with the Austin Police Department. This comment will become important as you read her wonderful story about neighboring. She also wants everyone to know that her husband, Kevin, did most of the relational heavy lifting with their neighbors while she did the baking. She bakes. –geno)
In Just The Right Place
by Courtney Daniel
We had to miss church for Palm Sunday. I dearly love Palm Sunday at Hope.
I love Palm Sunday at Hope primarily because I grew up in a church that gave me a wonderful foundation in the word, but when it came time to worship everyone’s arms were superglued to their sides. If you were feeling especially moved you might dare to give a ‘half Jesus’ wherein you would put your hands out, palms up, at about your waist.
There were no ‘touchdown arms’, no pretending to be a toddler with your arms outstretched above you and waiting for Father God to pick you up and certainly no twirling around or crazy dancing. This just did not happen.
So when I first started to come to Hope I would stroke my gun in my purse for comfort. It was almost downright scary on a usual Sunday but then my first Palm Sunday came and holy palm leaf batman! The sheer, wild, frolicking that occurred was startling and beautiful.
Then our neighbors asked us to join them in celebrating their son’s birthday. At first we thought we’d be able to squeeze it all in but we realized the night before that it would be too much. So we chose to join them in this celebration. I must admit I was a bit sad that morning that there would be no wild palm frolicking but once we were there I realized we were in the right place.
Our neighbors had canceled their big birthday party plans as the week had gotten crazy so they made the party much smaller and only included family and closest friends. When I heard this I immediately felt out of place. After all, we barely knew them, for even though we had lived across from them for over a year it had only been in the last six months or so that we started to interact more.
Over and over again the ones that loved them dearly expressed their thanks to us for being there, and for being available to this sweet family. For you see they walked through a diagnosis of autism in their boy this year. And one thing that dearly helps is playtime with other kids. So there, God had plopped us down into their lives to be there for them. Our children are a bit older too which helps because they are patient and kind to this boy that’s a little different.
Earlier in the year I had been studying for the sergeant test and as the test was getting closer I had been retreating from the world to study more but often would take a break by going across the street with this mother and her boy to have a brief play date. This was before the diagnosis and I had no idea how much it meant to her. But God did. And somehow he has formed the perfect playmate in my son for this boy because Caleb plays with this boy and is nonplussed when the boy goes into his own world again.
Even more, God takes care of little details. For this tired mother had planned a shark themed party and was worried that they had no decorations. God had taken care of it because over the last two years we had collected sharks for our boy so we took them a bag of sharks to decorate with.
God has put us in this spot for a reason. Not even just for them, for there’s also a single mom whose son we pick up from school every day. And there are even more houses full of people that are full of mystery who might just be waiting for a missing piece of their life to snap right in.
For Easter Sunday we baked everyone blueberry muffins and went ahead and gave them out the night before, except one. It was the neighbors right next door. The ones whose square I left blank on Geno’s little handout. The ones, may I say, I don’t really like.
Last year a windstorm knocked down the fence between our yards and it has been weird between us ever since. So when I was shuffling the kids into the car and I turn around in time to see my coffee spill everywhere suddenly there was the neighbor.
Stammering out that I have muffins for them I raced inside and handed him the baggie with the Easter card Kaiya had made. The look on his face was priceless. It was hope. Like they too had wanted to go back through time to before the windstorm and make things right again. To be neighbors, for each other and not against each other.
All this to say, that crazily enough this stuff really works. And, it’s really not that hard. It is the easiest thing for us to go across the street and play with a sweet, struggling boy. Yet it means the world to them. Picking up another neighbor’s child from school is not hard for us at all yet it saves her hundreds of dollars. Baking muffins was also very easy and may have just bridged a gap that I had long given up hope on of ever being mended.
This stuff works.