Last night I went walking through my neighborhood in an effort to exercise. The night was cool, punctuated by firecrackers and painted with darkness where the streetlights don’t quite reach. The route I’d chosen has a medium grade hill which I wanted to take advantage of so my thighs would tune more to my personal music. I was having a text conversation with my mother-in-law and walking fast enough to hear the groans of protest in my muscles.
When I got to the corner of my street, within eye-shot of my home, my ankle decided to throw me forward onto the asphalt tearing a nickel sized dime deep chunk off my knee, slicing my thumb, and wrenching my back. As I rolled over to sit up, I held my knee and breathed a Peter Griffin for a good while as tears rolled down my face.
A car pulled up in the intersection and two young men asked me if I was okay. Through my tears I explained that I needed to get to my husband. They asked if I could stand. I wasn’t sure since I hadn’t attempted it yet. I was still trying to get my breath. Then they got out of their car and as if approaching an untamed animal they said, “We’re not going to hurt you. We’re just going to help you up.” One on my right side, one on my left, and they lifted me rather easily to standing. A few test steps and I thanked them as they walked back to their car and left.
Other than a nasty gash and a wobbly ankle, I was okay enough to walk to my house and get doctored up by my husband and neighbor. I’m no worse for wear but, in my world, walking and chewing gum are not recommended.
The only thing that really bothered me of all that was their approach of me. They were non-threatening Samaritans reassuring me as I sat in the dark on the street huddled with injury but that they had to even identify themselves as such felt wrong. It felt like they shouldn’t have to introduce themselves as if at a job interview just to help an injured female party.
Yes, I understand why they did it. Yes, I understand society’s rules about approaching another human when you intend to touch them. Yes, I see all of that, but they were reacting appropriately to a fellow human. They weren’t invasive, just cautious. I hate that it were necessary.
I’ve struggled a lot with Love Thy Neighbor on a personal level lately. I’ve written, spoken, and thought
less than stellar horrible reviews of where I live. With snipers on my birthday descending on a gun wielding neighbor in the next building and bandy rooster posturing about who is the biggest and strongest among the children and the adults, while adding in a sprinkle of drug addicted/using/dealing people and the imagery is stark.
The young men who stopped to help me get on my feet, my young neighbor who saw me crying and immediately called for his mom to help me, his mom who came jumping over the wall when she saw my injury and her subsequent doctoring, with the assistance of my husband, of my body demonstrates to me that Love Thy Neighbor isn’t just a phrase. It’s a purposeful direction of a human’s attention that creates a supportive network of kind hearts helping one another in times of need.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there is hope hidden in my neighborhood, I just haven’t unlocked that door yet. I’ll just have to keep trying.