Love Thy Neighbor

Another 4-H’er I mentor captured this image of the delphinium in the back yard a day or two before the wind knocked it to the ground.

I was sitting in my backyard the other night feeling a little lost. The past week was a rough one, and for the first time in days, I felt like the weight of the world had finally been lifted.

I turned off the computer, left the phone in the house and sat with my feet in the grass, admiring the hydrangea that has given me a trio of purple blooms. It took long enough — five, maybe six years. Mom told me I should fertilize it, but in my yard, it’s equal treatment for all. Either they live with what Mother Nature provides or they don’t.

Thanks to the high winds of a couple weeks ago, my purple delphinium provided little opportunity for admiration before its top-heavy blooms were knocked to the ground. The flower is a favorite of mine, and the envy of my neighbor on the other side of the fence. Each and every year, she marvels about its vibrant colors.

Next year, though, I’ll have to admire it by myself, unless, perhaps, whoever comes to occupy the house next door likes purple as much as I do.

That’s part of why I’m feeling a little down this week. My neighbors have moved.

I suppose it may seem silly to some. I mean, we all lead busy lives today — we come and go and do our own thing. People spend more time scrolling through their Facebook feed than developing friendships with the neighbors next door.

I was lucky, though, to have forged a friendship with a family of four and one very lovable pooch named Terry. I miss all five of them equally, though I know the kids will be back in town soon enough for work, school and the county fair.

But they won’t be next door — not anymore.

For nearly a decade the kids have been in my life, my mentees. I took them to 4-H meetings, kept them on task to complete 4-H fair projects and burst with pride at every accomplishment they had.

I saw the shy young girl struggle through her first demonstration become the girl who sang from the heart in an auditorium filled with onlookers. I watched a boy and his dog — purchased from the animal shelter — garner purple ribbon after purple ribbon. I witnessed two young kids become confident teens, and I pray they find their place in this too-often unkind world.

So to the woman who always called me You-lee and endured our same struggle to communicate, to the man who patiently tended slabs of meat on the grill — causing delicious smells to be carried into my backyard and to the kids who have provided me with much laughter, a little stress and now a few tears, thanks for being such wonderful neighbors.

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