It was finally here: our family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We had been planning for weeks and packing for days. We had a stockpile of educational books for the kids about the native tribes in the area and we spent the morning making homemade snacks for the long road trip. The kids were so excited. We were scheduled to leave after my husband got off work.
We spent the afternoon loading up the car and were ten minutes away from “go time.” As I came out with one of our last loads, I saw my neighbor Ivy—Poison Ivy as she likes to be called—coming up the sidewalk. When I waved ‘hello’ she came right up to me and gave me a big hug. She held on tight and I squeezed her right back.
I met Ivy years ago when she was walking past the community garden next to my house. It was a new garden then with young plants and little intentional design. Ivy had had been recovering from knee surgery and her long recovery led to a struggle with agoraphobia. Ivy was also recovering from addiction and staying in her home was easier than facing all the issues and temptations of the world.
On the day we met, Ivy had ventured out to brave a walk in an effort to take back her life. Before long, we were meeting every week in the garden to grow food, water seeds, and tend to plants. The community garden became her refuge and our place where we could share all the hard truths and beautiful lessons learned on this roller coaster called life. Ivy found healing in the garden and I found a friend.
The day of our Black Hills trip, I was reminded of our first meeting. I put a movie on for the kids and sat on the stoop to visit with Ivy again. Decked out in her heavy metal t-shirt, red sweat shorts, combat boots, rainbow socks, and draped in silver jewelry, Ivy confessed that she was having a tough day and that she was waiting for her AA meeting to begin. She had another hour and a half to wait and nowhere to go.
Her shaking hands began to calm as we talked about the pain and struggle of addiction. We moved to the garden and got our hands dirty as we pulled some weeds, found ripe tomatoes, and re-centered ourselves against the torrent of emotions pulling at us both. When the time came, Ivy went to her meeting and we loaded up the car and headed to the Black Hills. We departed a little late, but right on time.
These moments when our lives are interrupted—these are the moments when relationships are built. These moments allow us to be fully seen and to fully see others. When faced with a neighbor who is in need, what do you do? Do you take the time to see them, even if it interrupts your plans?