Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

(The Iris Diaries)

Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”(Hosea 2:1)

There is a house nearby that seems to draw strange renters.  Once we had “The Shadow” lurking there for a few months. For a long time, he was never seen except as a silhouette through the curtains or a dark figure on his patio with no face.

Then one day a police car pulled up and handcuffed him and took him to jail.  About two months later, he returned.  No one knows how his bills had been paid while he was away.  But he stepped out of a friend’s car in a jailbird outfit.  He ran into the house hurriedly and about thirty minutes later, he came out to the front yard with a cell phone. He seemed to be calling everyone he knew, saying things like, “Yeah, man, I just have to try to stay out of trouble now.”

Soon, lovely silk-haired blonde women in expensive cars began to show up regularly, and one of them finally moved in.  Then one day my son heard the woman calling the police excitedly on her cell phone.  The cops came and took the man away again.  While he was gone, the woman brought huge metal storage devices and packed them full of stuff, and a giant u-haul showed up and she disappeared.  The guy got out again from jail, and soon he moved out and we never saw him again.

Then we got some new neighbors.  The parents were deaf and the children were three wild teenage guys.  We could always hear them yelling, and they roamed around the neighborhood in packs like jackals.  Everyone could see their underwear because their shorts were too large.  One of them had a worn out dirty blonde Mohawk which hung limply around the shaved part of his head and a small indecipherable tattoo was on his scalp. It was apparent that he was the ringleader and his loud mouth frothed constantly with cruel sarcasm and vulgarity.  I learned later that he was the eldest son.

A gang of young people partied in the house constantly and the police were there almost every night.  The cops seemed to know all of their names, but nobody ever was arrested.  We would find dead birds lying around their front yard because they would go out and shoot them down with their BB guns. The police were called to investigate but no one could put a stop to it.

You could see people in clusters gossiping in the neighborhood, more than usual during this time.  It was endless entertainment for them.  I was troubled in my spirit because I always think of people’s souls hidden beneath their outward appearance.

One day the youngest of the boys came to my door in a hurry, needing to borrow the phone.  I could see that he was tense and very aware of his family’s notoriety in the neighborhood.  He expected to see cold cruel eyes looking back at him, but instead he saw the gentle expression of a silver-haired lady wearing a lavender dress and silver sandals.

“Can I borrow your phone just for a second?” he asked nervously.

“Yes, have a seat there at the counter.  Would you like a can of Sprite?” He was startled, and seemed unnerved.

“Well yeah, thanks” he replied, and placed his phone call.

Then he popped open the soda can and lingered for awhile at the counter and began to talk about a lot of things.  “My name is Freddie, I guess it goes without saying that my family has a lot of problems.  My three brothers are always in and out of jail and juvenile detention, but I’ve never been there.  My parents act like they expect me to be the same way, but that’s not what I want.  I want to be different, and have a better life than this.  Sometimes I get really mad at my parents because they don’t believe me, and they don’t give me a chance to prove it. I want to graduate from high school and go to college.”

“Well, you just have to be strong and believe in yourself, and things will work out in time,” I said. “I know your situation has to be very hard for you. If there is anything that I can do to help, let me know.  And come by to visit my sons sometime, okay?  My youngest is about your age.”

I had been hearing Freddie’s deaf mother crying and wailing out loud in the middle of the night, and I wished I could comfort her somehow.  I didn’t know who was upsetting her, or if she was aware of how loud she was. Once when I went to my car in the morning, I saw her in the front yard, and her face appeared like someone who had never seen a happy day in her life.  It was worn and lined and full of pain. I prayed that night for her, and wrote a message for her inside a pretty card.

I went to my neighbor’s house the next day, and Freddie came to the door.  I asked him to use sign language to tell his mother that I just wanted to give her a letter.  The woman looked suspiciously at me and squinted as if coming out of dark cave and trying to see clearly.  I could sense that she thought she was in some kind of trouble, or that her sons had done something bad. She seemed awkward and confused, as Freddie read the card and made hand signs to his mother.  The note simply said:  “I am your neighbor and I want to be your friend.  If you ever are in need of anything, please let me know.” The woman nodded hesitantly, and Freddie thanked me.  I returned home.

After that, I never heard the woman crying at night again. What did it mean? I didn’t know, but I was glad.  I thought that maybe whoever was mistreating her had heard that someone was concerned.

A few days later, I needed some yard work done, and I inquired about Freddie and his brothers.  They all came to my yard, and I showed them what to do and brought out some lemonade.  They spent all afternoon in the heat moving rocks out of the front yard and raking.  I stood in my kitchen window and heard one of the brothers say, “This is the best day ever.  We’re making some money, and having a good time too.”  I laughed quietly.

One of my neighbors approached me the next day and asked me why I would let those crazy boys work in my yard.  I said I thought they needed something constructive to do with their time.

Soon after that, I needed my lawn mowed, and I noticed Freddie’s deaf father in his yard mowing. He had a bald shiny head and a clean white shirt that showed off his muscular chest and arms.  He reminded me of Mister Clean. I approached him with hand signals to find out if I could pay him to do my yard after his.  He took paper and a pencil from his jeans pocket and we jotted notes to each other, and agreed to a price for my lawn to be mowed.

After that, the man always did my lawn whenever he did his own.  The mother stopped crying.  Freddie always greeted me, and his brothers acted like wild animals, but I knew that everything good takes time and patience. I had been wilder than any of them once, and people had put up with me.

One day, I was getting out of my car with a paper bag of groceries, and the deaf man was on my step motioning for me to come to his house. With squeals, he started towards his door.  I set the bag down on my steps and followed the man. The whole family was sitting together inside the shady screened porch.

Freddie told me that they had all been evicted, and that they wanted to thank me.  I asked where they would go, and Freddie said they didn’t have a place, so they would be in a hotel room for awhile.  They had not been given sufficient time to make better plans, but the neighbors had complained so much that they had to go.

Their faces were pitiful and sad.  My heart was filled with pain for their family, and the next morning they were all gone.  I continue to pray that their lives will become happier someday and that Freddie will have a chance at success.


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