62: No Disability between Neighbors

62: No Disability between Neighbors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

No Disability between Neighbors

I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

~Mother Teresa

“Mom,” Cody said one morning. “Can we go see the big, giant machine over there?”

“Yeah!” his younger brothers piped up. “Can we, Mom? Please, please, please?”

With a sinking feeling, I knew what machine they were talking about. The backhoe was on the lot nearest ours, leveling the land around the new gray-bricked home quickly taking shape.

We had moved to the country to get away from neighbors. Now it looked like neighbors had found us. For a while there, big machines shattered the quiet, tracking large clumps of mud in the road and annoying us to no end. I sighed.

“Okay guys, let’s go,” I relented.

We watched from the road as the man skillfully manipulated the backhoe, digging and leveling the lot. A white sign was posted at the edge of the road.

“Doris Morgan,” the sign boasted.

My husband, Stephen, was the first to meet her. He was working in his garden when he lent his wheelbarrow to her for yard work.

“Well?” I asked him. “What’s she like?”

He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “She seems real nice. Hey, did you know her son and his construction crew built her house?”

“Really?”

“Yep. He’s in a wheelchair because of some car accident. That was him on that backhoe.”

“What?!”

What appeared to our untrained eyes as an ordinary task was accomplished by a man paralyzed from the waist down, who had mechanically adapted the backhoe, along with other large machinery and vehicles, to fit his needs.

It didn’t take us long to warm up to our new neighbor. Doris Morgan was a real estate secretary who retired after three major back surgeries and heart problems. Miss Doris, we affectionately called her.

Slight in stature, with the stamina of a twenty-year-old in spite of her medical problems, Miss Doris has a heart that fills the world. We began house sitting for each other, and in exchange for helping plant her grass, Miss Doris baked cookies for us. We grieved with her when she lost her sister one Thanksgiving. When I was away on business, she made casseroles for my husband and kids. Stephen mowed her lawn whenever he had time. The favors volleyed back and forth between our households.

Stephen rang her doorbell one evening. It was nearing the end of Valentine’s Day, and he was clutching a vase filled with flowers he had arranged earlier.

“Yes?” he heard her ask on the other side of the door.

“Miss Doris, it’s me—Stephen,” he said.

She cracked the door open with a questioning smile.

“These are for you,” he said, handing her the vase. “I know this is a bad week for you, but we didn’t want you to think we’d forgotten you on Valentine’s Day.”

She began to cry and hugged him.

“Oh, Stephen, you are such a sweetheart.”

The week of Valentine’s Day was the anniversary of her beloved husband’s passing. She made a sacred point of withdrawing from the world during that week. And we made a point of connecting with her during the hardest time of the year for her.

Doris Morgan was honored for all she does for her son, who relies on her on his bad days. She does his taxes for him, babysits his rental properties, cooks, cleans, and shops for him when he is unable to, and nurses him through the hard times.

“God don’t give me more than I can handle,” she declared.

Truly the sound of a mother’s love.

It’s been almost five years since Miss Doris moved into the home her son built. One can see her outside with our boys trailing behind her in her gardens.

The neighbors may have found us. But what we found instead was family.

~Jennifer Oliver

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