I like the landscaping around my home to look beautiful: no weeds, trimmed bushes, and green grass. I spend many morning hours keeping my yard in pristine condition. My wife believes that I spend too much time outside doing yard work and she is probably right. I just fear getting behind in my yard work, so I lean too much towards perfection.
In the August 7, 2019 Southern Living article by Meghan Overdeep, I learned of a neighbor’s complaint about an “eyesore” house. A neighbor sent Randa Ragland a handwritten note:
“Please take pride and straighten up the exterior of your house. Your eyesore is affecting the resale value of OUR homes. Who wants to buy a house near you and look at that daily. It does not take that much effort, all you have to do is give a s***. DO BETTER!”
While I have never contemplated writing a note to my neighbor about their “eyesore” house, I must confess that my thoughts at times wondered in a direction similar to the neighbor. Why can’t some of my neighbors pull their obvious weeds, trim their hedges occasionally, and cut back their unruly vines? Have they no pride in their property? Aren’t they also responsible for the upkeep of our beautiful neighborhood?
Now, as Paul Harvey said, for the rest of the story. Randa wrote a Facebook post in response to the handwritten note because “you never know what is going on with the next person.” Randa is the mother of five children. Her three-year old son, Jaxen, is autistic with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer. The lives of all family members revolve around doctor visits, hospital stays (20), chemo, transplants and surgeries (7). Their home in Pinson, Alabama (near Birmingham with a population around 7,000) has declined because there just isn’t enough time, money or energy. They have much higher priorities than a home tour for Southern Living magazine.
This is where work and faith come together. Work isn’t just about getting a paycheck. It is about community: directing your God-given talents towards loving your neighbors. Jaxen’s Army for Justice, a Facebook group, was formed and volunteers showed up at Randa’s home. Landscapers mowed the grass and cut the brush around her home. “Approximately 30 people came to the Ragland home on Saturday to help with household chores and maintenance.”
Randa was overwhelmed with community love and support. “It is so awesome that it has happened,” she concluded. “No one should go through this alone.” Perhaps getting to know your neighbors should come before making judgements and sending notes?
Before our country had social services, communities bonded by helping neighbors. You see this in Amish communities today where giving and receiving within community is a way of life. In the small community of Pinson, community healing and bonding is happening. One of the young men in Jaxen’s Army understands Randa’s dilemma. He lost his 6-year old daughter two weeks ago from the same cancer that imperils Jaxen. He works for Jaxen to heal. Loving your neighbors takes the focus off of your own struggles and projects it outward. Working for others puts our faith into action. We need more Jaxen’s Army for Justice in our neighborhoods, more community compassion, and less handwritten “eyesore” notes.