The neighbor

Last year when Sid and I came to Florida, we arrived the day after my aunt died. Although I was emotionally crushed, it was a blessing to be here at that time to help take care of my then 91 year old uncle and my cousin as she tried to understand the probate process. I balanced my trying times with learning how to line dance and clog, meeting many wonderful people along the way. It was a meaningful time away, yet to those I met I was “Sandy’s cousin.” I enjoyed the activities but did not participate in the seemingly endless amount of conversation spent on who did what to whom. I was actually the target of a mean girl, well, woman, at one class that ended in a good result as I embraced her and said, let’s not do this.

After only a week, this year has been a whole new ball game. The mean girl was so glad to see me. Others in the classes have run up and are so happy I’m back. Kind of surprising after a year away but it’s good to be seen as me instead of just “the cousin.” What’s even more gratifying is I feel more comfortable bringing the fun factor into the dance classes rather than being more reserved as I was last year. We smile, don’t take ourselves so seriously, help the newcomers learn the steps, reassuring them that’s how I felt last year! I’ve shared my testimony with several very interested class members and have even had discussions about Messianic Judaism. People are smiling more. Interactions with others have a great vibe.

Sid and I now have a small home in the same community as my uncle and cousin’s family. Our thought is to spend a couple months here each year to help break up the winter weather. The “coincidences” of our arriving when most needed by my cousin and her family have been the part of the plan that wasn’t ours, but is His, and is beyond awesome.

Sid had run into our next door neighbor a couple times while walking the dogs so they knew I was looking forward to meeting them. As Sid and I were relaxing at home yesterday, the wife of the couple came over to introduce herself to me. She barely got two words out before breaking into tears. After retiring early, she and her husband had traveled the world on their 65 foot yacht, until several years ago when her husband had a massive stroke. For years they had docked at the marina here and loved it, so they sold their boat and bought the house next door.

After I listened to her story, and her struggles of the day, she and I emotionally embraced as she invited Sid and I, and our comfort dogs, to meet her husband. That encounter is a hard one to erase from my mind. This Mensa member man can’t speak or move, or sit, and has tubes wherever possible needing 24/7 care. His brain was not as affected as his body so Sid and I chatted a lot and seemingly brightened his day hoping he understood. I reminded them as we left that our door is always open and she can call any time. As Sid and I returned home we held each other’s hand just a little bit tighter.

Her parting words were to remind me to live in the moment, meaning to appreciate each breath, for just like that, life can change on a dime. That advice doesn’t mean to live recklessly, but rather, to be grateful for life’s gifts moment by moment.

I believe that when we have negative thoughts, we open a portal to negative influences. Conversely, when we invite in HaShem through our prayers of love and gratitude, when we look for the positive and share our love, we get a glimpse of HaShem’s Hand in our lives. It is no coincidence that my world seems to be opening to those in situations similar to my neighbor’s. I have several friends whose spouses are becoming debilitated medically. What was striking yesterday was my neighbor so comfortably sharing with me her struggles as her husband’s caregiver, giving me palpable insights into the pain all of these friends are experiencing. We had not even met. Yet she wanted to bring me into her world at the deepest level immediately, and said so many times how thankful she was for our being there for her. This instantaneous connection was of Him, not of us.

I believe we receive as our way to bless others what we transmit from our hearts. As we grow in learning how to love from each experience, our Abba brings us similar opportunities to serve and grow in this most important expectation of each of us – to unconditionally love our brothers and sisters. It’s no coincidence the dance classes are less gossipy and more positive. It is no accident that I’m here just as my cousin needs support through chemotherapy and radiation. It’s no accident we live next door to a neighbor whose situation is one with which I am familiar. I’m not doing anything special, just loving others. It’s that easy. HaShem is opening the doors I am to enter. The more I love, the more opportunities I am given to love. A portal of love is opened as we open our hearts to love others more.

As you open your heart to love others in tangible ways by being there for them, HaShem will create more openings for you to feel and fill those love needs in others. The love and openness that you will receive, the depth of connection that you will experience, the beauty of our brothers and sisters that you will enjoy, will increase exponentially at each opportunity. As you feel HaShem’s love in thee ways, your capacity to love others and see others as He sees us will grow.You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of this gift of life you live.

As my neighbor reminds us, treasure each breath.

Shabbat shalom.

P.S. On the heels of writing this message, I got on a plane to NYC to attend the Borough Park Symposium. I “randomly” was seated by an older lady who explained to me that she’s fine with flying except when it gets bumpy. On the flight, as each bump caused her to grip the armrests, I calmly put my hand on hers and held it through the turbulence. She was so calmed, and grateful. The portal was opened.

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