We installed a new furnace, ducting,
and air conditioner this February.
Why is that significant? Let me tell you a story…
Last November 20th I set up an appt to have our local gas & electric company, SDG&E, come and check our heater, & to light it. We do this every other year just to make sure everything is in compliance. This Winter we didn’t get our furnace turned on, we didn’t get any heat…instead, we got a GREAT, BIG, & UGLY, red tag smack on it, and that was that!
Our almost 50 year-old heater had a BIG hole in it. It was unrepairable.
The tech was giving my husband the news as I returned home from dropping off the kiddo at school, and even before they told me I could tell by their faces that something wasn’t right.
Then, the other shoe dropped: In a house this old, with original heater & ducting, he advised us that there was an 80+% chance that we would need to replace the ducting too…and the range he threw out for that kind of work was – - – more than we could afford!
(The financial issues are not part of this story though, so let me only digress a little bit more to say there’s an Awesome government-run loan program called HERO. I would recommend it if you need any home improvements & own a home that’s not underwater.)
If you know us and know where we reside, which is sunny, San Diego, CA., you may think we are big babies and could live without heat. Perhaps, but two things made that more difficult: First, Southern California (San Diego included) experienced a cold snap during December 2014 that brought temperatures in the 30’s & snow in some places. I said SNOW, people! (it doesn’t snow in the cities.) Remember, we are just below L.A.. When is the last time you saw snow in Hollywood? (The snow was mostly in the Temecula area, but all surrounding areas were DANG cold!!)
Second, my back happened. About 6 Years ago I was diagnosed with arthritis in the lower lumbar region of my spine. I was in my early 30’s & it is thought that it was a result of an injury I succumbed to after a fall as a teenager. Most of the time my pain is mild & manageable, but this winter my back decided differently. The first time since the pain that lead to the diagnosis, my back was in excruciating pain every day. I could not move because my back seized up, and when I finally could move it would be under winces, gritted teeth, and waaay more Advil than I probably should take. I finally got a hold of those Thermacare back wraps & would wear them all day. Without them I couldn’t move.
Our home temperatures never rose above 62 degrees during the day, and in the 30’s, 40”s, & 50’s at night. (It was warmer outside than in our house.) Our son has a small space heater in his bedroom, so at least he would be relatively warm, but that’s all we had. Money was tight enough that buying another one was a luxury.
During this time, I became very aware of others & their struggles.
I know that despite our circumstances there are many others dealing with harsher problems. Our house may be cold, but we were not sleeping on the streets, where I could not imagine how cold the last few nights must have been. We are also able to afford heat, when it is available, while there are households that can’t ever turn on their heat because they can’t afford it.
I recognize that I am self-centered. Not in an egotistical, non-caring way…no, it was mostly because while dealing with my own family’s challenges that I don’t take time to notice or be concerned enough for others. In my opinion there is far too much “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality floating around in our society. All of us are guilty of it, including me. I’m not patting myself on the back here.
Of course, there are a few people that really make effort to think of others first. They feed the homeless, or help refugees, or bring meals to the homebound, and many other generous acts of kindness, but the rest of us…We Don’t. Perhaps occasionally we do these things, but then we get too busy or have some issue that needs our attention and we forget about our neighbors. We forget we are community. I understand we can’t all feed the homeless at the local rescue mission, and I’m not saying we try to save the world. Not yet…
I do believe in baby steps though. I propose a challenge (for me included):
I believe we can daily (okay, weekly) think of others that could use support. What kind of support, and who is our neighbor, you ask? For that answer I believe the story of the Good Samaritan is our best example. (if you don’t know this Bible story, here is a link. It is a quick & easy read: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:25-37)
So, who is our neighbor?
The answer is probably not whom we’d like it to be. Are we not all human? It’s the panhandler on the street median, begging for money; it’s the annoying UPS delivery man that ALWAYS rings the bell when your baby is napping; it’s the school bus driver; it’s your FRENEMY at church and/or work; it’s the lady who yells at your kids for walking on her grass; it’s the little league coaches & umpires; and it’s the family that attends the Islamic mosque & walks past your church on the way to prayers; and the list goes on… I think you get the point.
How can we be a neighbor?
There’s no secret formula or instructions, except perhaps, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14b …Aaand, how can we love people? We can show it. It’s not complicated, but it does take us noticing need. We tune out a lot. We call it minding our own business. But, what if we practiced being a community & neighborly? We just have to open our eyes & listen with our ears. Actually LOOK & LISTEN, not just go around on “cruise-control”, not paying attention. I also prayed that God would show me opportunities where I could be a good neighbor, and had 2 opportunities within the hour where I could have made an impact. Once you start thinking about it, you see there are an abundance of opportunities to be a neighbor.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9
Perhaps you know a Single parent that needs a break and you could babysit for them; you could purchase a homeless person a burger when you order your meal from the drive-thru; or pay for the car in line behind you at Starbucks; You could bring a new mom or a sick friend a meal; send someone a card (or a text) to encourage them after a hard day; Offer to have your friend that is unemployed over for dinner; Wash the car of the elderly lady on your street; Give your delivery man some oranges from your fruit tree that he loves to eat; Drive someone to his or her Dr.s appt; you could even just give hugs & high-fives to all the other team members on your kid’s sports team; and so many other ways. I know you can come up with ways to be a neighbor.
Don’t wait for the person to ask you for help. Most of us are not going to ask for help. Society has trained us not to. If you wait for an invitation, you will miss many times that you could have been a neighbor. Example: When that person at the grocery checkout line in front of you starts to put back items, tell the cashier you will pay. (if you can.) If the person really doesn’t want you to they will tell you so.
The result of this challenge? I think at first people will be surprised, but then, I believe it will spread & hearts will change. We can’t expect our community or world to be loving and neighborly by doing nothing. At the very least, it will change you (and me). It will soften us and give us hearts that love others. In a world that has plenty of sharp edges we could definitely use some more soft.
As Mother Teresa once said,
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
If we all started thinking of others more, just think of the community we could build & be together.
P.S. BTW, we also had friends extend kindness to us during our time of no heat. You can always count on your Stylist to come through for you (they are, after all, more like therapists). My husband and I have had the same hair stylist for years, and when getting a haircut shared that we didn’t have heat. Without missing a beat, we were lent their space heater for our bedroom. It really saved my tush from freezing!
Thank you, Laura (& Shannon & Harlow).