Who’s Your Neighbor?

Source: OJO Images

One of the concerns my mother had about moving to Atlanta alone with my child last year is that I didn’t “have anyone” there to help me. I have a couple of family members and friends that rarely see, but no one I could 100% unequivocally count on nearby (the metro area is vast) like her.

I quickly and easily began to befriend people via meetup groups, Toastmasters, and social networks. And my daughter K quickly made friends with kids in our apartment complex with whom she rides the school bus every day. But the one friend she always checks for and hangs with is a few years younger, and not in even school yet. K treats this girl, A, like the little sister always wanted but never had.

Cute little A lives in a somewhat similar family setup to what I had in Virginia: she lives with her parents and her grandmother, while her two siblings (each with a different parent–I don’t like using the terms “half-brother” and “half-sister”) live out-of-state. Once A and K became friends, her family opened up, supporting us as if we were extended family. If one of us needs eggs or cheese, the other one gives it without hesitation. If one of us needs something more substantial that merits a grocery run, it’s done (I work at home and A’s parents work long days and often nap when they get home before 7).  Sometimes either of us will feed both the kids if they’re playing together that evening and don’t want to separate. And if I need babysitting assistance, or they need it from me, it’s pretty much done (although I am careful not to abuse this and to make sure I assist/pay some way in appreciation). I really find them to be a godsend for me, even when I have everything I need or opt to use an “official” daycare/babysitting service. But last week I was called on to be even more than a good neighbor.

More Than a Good Neighbor

A’s grandmother let me know that she had a doctor’s appointment with a new doctor, and was worried about how he would be. (I think finding a new doctor/changing doctors is very stressful.) This appointment was at 5 pm, and her daughter, who works in another county quite a distance away, was working late that night because she had to go out of town for a conference. A’s gramma is the same age as my mother, and reminds me of her in some ways. They have both been caregivers most of their lives, starting with their own siblings, and they have both endured family tragedies, divorce, and sub-par health. So if A’s gramma needs something from me, I help her any way I can. She’s a meek and genteel woman, so that makes it even easier to be compassionate, along with the fact that she’s compassionate to me too.

When I took her to her doctor appointment, I kept A and K. After the appointment, it turned out that her blood pressure was so high that he asked her to go to the ER to get it under control. So I picked her up, waited for her prescription to be filled, then went to the hospital, with A and K in tow (who by this time were driving me AND themselves nuts– I don’t know how parents of multiple young children do it. My patience doesn’t last that many consecutive hours). By the time she was discharged, her daughter was able to pick her up, but not before she called me and expressed her sincere gratitude, calling me “a godsend.”

The next day, A’s gramma was feeling fine, and I took her to the store. But on day two, she started feeling a lot worse. I had just gotten home from a long day where I was gone with K for about 12 hours, and was just about to settle down and change my clothes for the night when my cell rang. A’s gramma faintly spoke, telling me that she had been feeling bad all day with chest pains, and wanted to get her blood pressure checked. Her son-in-law had been gone most of the day with A, but they were home, and I left K with them. She asked me to take her to CVS, but when we got a mile up the road, she saw the fire station and asked me to stop there instead. Once the firemen took her pressure (which was near stroke-level), they gave her an IV and called an ambulance. She was so scared when they helped her out of the car and put her on a stretcher, and I was pretty nervous myself, but told her not to be afraid, that I’d be right behind her.My heart sank as they began to help her out of the car and put her on a stretcher. Hiding my own worry, I told her not to be afraid, that I’d be right behind her.

I went back home to tell A’s dad what happened in person, since I forgot my cell. He said he would keep K, so I grabbed my cell, K’s nightgown and my extra set of keys. Then I left for the hospital and stayed with her in the room. She and A’s dad asked me not to call her daughter to avoid worrying her. I was a little annoyed with the level of (non-)attentiveness she had; I was glad I was there to get staff for her when she needed to go to the bathroom or anything else (she didn’t have a call light). Eventually, the doctor gave her an update and options: he could give her something to help her bp go down and see what happens for the the next hour or so, or she could be admitted to the hospital for overnight monitoring. She opted not to be admitted because her chest pain had stopped. I stayed with her until about 1 a.m., and then we went to another area to be discharged.  When the staff called her back into a private room, it took a while because they were questioning her about two bills she had from the 1990’s! As we left, she told me she got annoyed as they asked her to contact the billing department on Monday, and warned them not to make her bp go back up.

It Takes a Village

Woman With Cornrows Wearing Earring That Spells Love
Source: Vetta

One of the things I think is lacking in our communities today is the sense of caring for and helping one another. There’s too much of the “It’s not my problem” attitude among some of us. I don’t think enough people look past their needs to be willing to do some kind of bartering or use a “village” concept in raising kids. Moms (especially young moms, single moms, and moms with multiple children at home) need the support of others. Us women do SO much for everyone and sometimes put ourselves dead last.

One of my best friends is married with two small children but does so much without her husband’s help that she might as well be a single parent. He doesn’t want to to ANYTHING alone with the kids, and he never wants to pick them up in the middle of his workday if a important situation arises, but she has her own business and has to stop what she’s doing whenever it comes to the kids. :/  Another friend of mine had a husband out of work for a while, and he didn’t ever want to grocery shop for the house while she was at work, because of he was worried about how his kids would behave in the store. Why are some men are afraid to be alone with their own kids?

People used to care about each other– if someone’s child was running around outside after the streetlights came on, or said something a little too grown or too crazy– ANY adult could come along and nip it in the bud. It didn’t matter if that person had kids in the group, or if that adult was their parent. Nowadays, you could try to discipline youth and their parent will come back to you and cuss YOU out.

One of my ex-neighbors from VA, named “Ti,” lives in the Atlanta metro area, and I remember one of the things she told me when I contemplated moving here: She said, “Don’t worry about not having your family here. If you want to move here, pray. If it’s right for you, God will put people in your life to help you. Don’t be afraid to take that step.” Ti was right, and I’m grateful for it every day.

My Challenge to You

I didn’t blog this story because I think I’m so great– I’m not. I admit that for a brief moment, I wondered if maybe my neighbor was overreacting when she called me to go to the ER the second time. After all, I was beat! But I didn’t waste any time with those thoughts, and I shudder to think what would happen if I did.

Try it one day this week–help someone even if you don’t have a deep rapport with them. Bless a person who does not have the means to return the favor (or a stranger), and especially if it’s not convenient. It will change your perspective.

I was more than a good neighbor to A’s gramma… I was like another daughter to her. And I’d do it again. What have you done for your neighbor lately?

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