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The Good Neighbor

By: Ellen Perkey
 

When we moved into our first house we slowly began meeting our neighbors. We had quite the mixture of people in our south Austin neighborhood. Across the street was a man I particularly remember because he’s the sort of person whom its difficult to forget. He loved to talk to everyone and kept an eye on things in his part of the neighborhood.  He invited Jason (my husband) over for beer a couple times and told us all about the neighbors who used to own our house when we brought over Christmas cookies. When Jason’s younger brother was in town visiting he went outside to make a late night phone call and sat down in the bed of our truck parked out front. Our neighbor marched over and began hassling him about what he was doing in our front yard late at night since he wasn’t used to seeing Jason’s brother around. I remember most of all his kindness and friendliness, the polite way he complimented me when he noticed I lost weight and the advice he gave us about our giant Texas Ash tree in the front yard. In many ways he was the picture of a good neighbor.

Our neighbor was an older Hispanic man who was a retired elevator installer. He was tattooed and a drinker and an ex-gang member. In many ways he personified the kind of person who is vilified in our current media. I’m sure he committed or assisted in crime as part of his life in a gang. I know he wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a good neighbor. Much like the Samaritan of the parable he was the opposite of where we expect to see goodness. God works and speaks in those places we least expect to see, and goodness is in people who have lived lives we’d like to classify as bad. Our neighbor passed away a couple years before we moved out of our home; and I will remember him as a good, imperfect person.