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When I dash out of the house and head to the grocery store to pick up something else that I have forgotten, I usually take the same route. I imagine that most of us are like that when we are going to familiar places.
And even though I don’t know all the people living in the homes I pass, the frequency and regularity of these little trips has given me a glimpse into some of their daily routines. The same cars are in the driveways at the same times during the day, visitors, cleaning services, and even walking the dog … all these routine activities occur on a fairly regular basis.
With time, I’ve established a waiving relationship with many of these anonymous neighbors/friends. It’s a cordial, uplifting feeling to be in contact – but not too close contact – with these nice neighbors.
And during the holiday seasons, it’s fun to ride around and see how the “neighbors” decorate their homes. Some of them are very minimalist with a simple, beautiful wreath with a long red ribbon on the front door. And others are a bit more exuberant, covering every tree and shrub with lights, and even setting up glittering reindeer or Easter bunnies across the lawn.
I noticed one house in particular the other day that stopped me in my tracks. The decorations had started out with some nice simple lights on the shrubs and trees. Then, the next day, there was an inflatable snowman, at least 8 feet high.
The snowman must’ve been lonesome because the day after that, six or eight inflated reindeer were added. Later that same afternoon, I went by again and a few 6-foot-tall inflatable gingerbread cookies were forming a chorus line in front of the shrubs.
The display kept growing: an inflatable sleigh with Santa driving was added, along with wrapped up gifts – inflated – scattered across what was left of the front yard area. But there was plenty more room, because this house is situated on a corner lot, so the decorations spilled around the corner right to the edge of the property line.
This is where I found the homeowner when I was out for a walk yesterday. She was stringing up lights all along the fence at her backyard.
“Look what you’ve done,” I called with a big smile and a wave. “It’s incredible! Where do you keep all these decorations?”
For a moment I thought she looked embarrassed, but then she broke into a broad smile. “We had to rent a storage facility,” she said with a chuckle. “But I can’t stop myself, I do it for them.” She pointed across her yard, past her garage, to the adjacent property.
There wasn’t a house on that lot. Instead, it was a playground, right next to her. And then next to the playground there was a Montessori school.
“Oh how wonderful! The little ones must love that!” I smiled back at her, noticing the kindness in her eyes.
“I think they do.”
“And so do I, it’s beautiful,” I answered, and I meant it. “Merry Christmas!”
With a pang, I continued on my walk, asking for forgiveness for my interior grumbling that it was all way too much. And I said prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude to the Holy Spirit for that light nudge, the gentle reminder of what it truly means to be a Christian.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.