What we choose to focus on, grows
By Diane Fisher
I think my neighbors may know how I feel about them. Do yours?
For the holidays, I made them gingerbread men with white frosted smiling faces and overalls. One neighbor returned the gesture and made me a burrito that he placed on my front porch along with a note. “Thanks for the cookies! Here, have a burrito.” I ate my burrito for lunch and felt so nurtured by this quirky, yet thoughtful, reciprocity.
Over the six years that I have lived in my idyllic neighborhood, we neighbors have exchanged so many things. While standing in our yard, or on the side of the street, we’ve had meaningful conversations or shared our concerns through Covid and smoky summer days. We’ve told joyful stories of trips we’ve taken, as well as our saddest stories, about loved ones who have died. We’ve come to one another bearing offerings of sunflower seeds, fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden, bottles of wine and beer, pottery, books, recipes, and even furniture.
But our exchanges go even deeper than a good existential conversation or those physical gifts, like a bouquet of flowers left on your doorstep, however precious and uplifting that is! In the deepest sense, we have offered one another one of the greatest gifts — a peaceful, supportive community.
I have at least 10 of my neighbors’ phone numbers in my contact list and would feel comfortable to call on any one of them, should I need their support or help with something. Living as a single woman with my dog, as I did this past year, meant that I slept soundly, knowing I was surrounded by my village of awesome neighbors.
My comical neighbor calls her and her husband “Spies R Us” because they keep a close eye on “mysterious” packages arriving on my front porch when I’m not home, and they pay attention to details like my car dome light being left on, which would have certainly drained my battery had they not kindly informed me.
As neighbors, we provide one another with our services, should the need arise. One neighbor waters my plants when I’m out of town, others come over and check on my dog if I am coming home late, and yet another helps troubleshoot my broken lawn mower.
I have bragged and raved about how much I love my neighbors to everyone I know. There is rarely a day that goes by when I do not say or think how fortunate and thankful I am to have such talented, beautiful, interesting, loving specimens living in proximity with me. I know this is special, and that not everyone can feel so fortunate. We can’t win them all, but what we choose to focus on, grows.
When we think of making a difference or going out into the world to do good, so often we think it must be far reaching or grand to be impactful. We need the constant reminder that it is actually the small, thoughtful actions that each of us take every day that change the world for the better. I believe caring for what is right in front of us is the best place to begin.
Later today, there would be a knock on my front door around dinner time. It’s one of my neighbors. He has the bottom of his T-shirt pulled up to form a pouch that he has used like a bag to carry over some produce from his garden. I run to the kitchen to fetch a large bowl and hold it in place as he empties the shirt’s contents. Luscious tomatoes and cucumbers roll out. “Do you know how to skin tomatoes?” he asks me. “These make the best sauce.” I thank him and tell him I will bring him some of the hot peppers I have growing. As I set my bowl of produce on the kitchen counter, I contemplate what special thing I might make with this shared abundance.
Diane Fisher is an in-home caregiver, dog mom, and potter living in Ashland. Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org).