Over the course of three weeks I’ve been watching packages stack up on a neighbor’s porch, which feels like a true testimony to the level of organic security and mindfulness of my condo complex. The first box was a Hello Fresh delivery, and the lime green logo was an easy attention grabber when I’d draw the curtains and look out on my balcony. Morning after morning I found myself succumbing to the a non-urgent form of the bystander effect, knowing my other neighbors could see them, too, and someone else would say something. But no one did. A week and a half later a different package appeared and was placed on top. Then this past Friday there was yet another package. Only then did I really begin to worry that perhaps it wasn’t unoccupied but maybe something had happened to my unknown neighbor, and felt a welfare check was in order. I’m an avid watcher of Spaulding Decon videos on YouTube, which is a company that goes in to clean up hoards, abandoned properties, and often crime scenes — hey, I come from a family of first-responders with all kinds of stories, so we’re all a bit warped IMHO. 🤪 On a more serious note, I am particularly troubled by stories where someone has died in a home and hasn’t been found for a long time, even years; I’m sure we’ve all heard such stories in the news…just awful. This morning before work I snapped a picture of the property management phone number and decided to call them when I got home from work.
When I pulled up, I noticed there was still a vehicle parked in the correlating spot, so I pulled in behind it and began walking up the back stairs. I got partway up before turning around and thinking I should call it in instead, then turned around yet again and headed back up the rest of the stairs. The blinds were open, and I saw a table in close proximity to the door stacked with items and no lights on. I held my breath as I knocked on the door and no one came. You know when you look up the symptoms of your cold online and Web MD tells you you’re basically dying of some rare disease? Well, that’s akin to the movie reel my mind was projecting in the 20 seconds I stood there, picturing myself calling the police, them finding a body, the coroner rolling up and the building gets taped off. Moral of the story: think less and just chill out a bit.
It was then I saw some movement and a woman maybe about 50’s or 60’s came to the sliding door. I introduced myself saying I lived across the way and that I had been seeing some packages accumulating on the porch over the past few weeks and but to see if the occupants were okay. She extended her hand through the gated doorway to shake mine and thank me for doing so because she had no idea there were packages on her front porch. Because her building had settled she’s been unable to open her front door for some time, so she only uses the back porch by her car.
Another figure appeared in the doorway and looked at me suspiciously. I recognized him as the young man I had met at our mailboxes some time ago, whom I suspect is autistic. When I waved at him he slowly came over, looked down and stuck his hand out to shake mine and introduced himself with his full name. As she was thanking me, she said “Oh you work at Unity…” — I had forgotten I was still wearing my badge — “…we’ve been looking for a church home for a while now.” So, she and I had a conversation for a few more minutes and I told her a bit about us and invited her to come and join us next Sunday. The woman mentioned she’d make a sign to put on the front door that encourages package-givers to drop off at the other side and thanked me again for taking the time to come by and let her know, then asked her son to go around and get the packages. I also made the light and obvious recommendation she not open the “fresh” delivery that’d been sitting out in the Texas heat and humidity for a few weeks. 🤢 “Thank goodness the trash comes tomorrow!” she said. Indeed!
As her son followed me down the stairs he asked if the packages were from the church, and I reiterated that they were not but that I was a neighbor who saw them and wanted to let them know. He wanted to know a little more about the church, so I told him a little bit about our community, and he thanked me and said he forgets things a lot. I chuckled a bit and told him that we all forget things sometimes and that was just fine. We wished each other a good day and by the time I got inside I watched him carry the stack of boxes back down the stairs and to its rightful place of entry.
I share that story with you because I think, more times than not, we get little tugs on our heart or mind to get involved or help someone out. I thought about this every morning for three weeks, yet I ignored that thought feeling like it was none of my business or that someone else would say something. I would have felt awful if someone had been living there and something bad had happened to them and nobody knew or said anything. Albeit a grim story, it’s not a far-fetched possibility. I know if it were me, or someone I cared about, I would want someone to follow their heart and thought and move into action.
We have shifted into such a state of fear that innocent acts of kindness might result in serious consequences or possibly loss of life. If we help someone we might be harmed, and if you’re in a public place you can guarantee something will be recorded on a cell phone and turned over to the world on the internet whether you are helping or “hindering”. We have become an isolated generation shut down to a lot of human interaction, though it’s what we crave, what we need, what we’ve missed. I would say society seems to do much better coming together in times of tragedy, but once the flood waters have drained, the dust has settled, and the fires have burnt out, we return to the pace of business-as-usual. There is such beauty when humanity comes together, and I believe it feels so good and so right because we are reminded, ah, that’s the oneness and connection we were designed to experience — yes, even you introverts!
I’ve spoken before about The Power of Intention and the simplicity of actions that may feel meaningful but can end up being significant. Who knows if this family will come to church this Sunday or any Sunday, that was a byproduct of a compassionate interaction, but they got their packages, they are okay, and we now know each other as neighbors, and that alone was worth the 5 minutes I took to act on a thought I’ve had for weeks.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: The next time something tugs on your mind, take a moment to pause and listen with your heart for the answer. Maybe it’s calling your sister, with whom you’ve been playing phone tag for a while. It could be opening the door for someone, smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger in the grocery store, or writing someone a note to say “hey, thanks for being alive”. Don’t automatically rule something out because your head says no AND exercise caution when needed — your head will make up all kinds of stories, most of which aren’t true or won’t happen — however, you can’t go wrong with your intuition, which comes from your heart. So, be smart, stay curious, do beautiful things, and know you are a beautiful thing. Let me know in the comments section below your experience pursuing a persistent thought of compassion.