It has been almost one year to the day when a shocking event unfolded in my neighborhood. For me, it serves as a daily reminder of how we can easily allow things near us to become invisible. The words “the Lord works in mysterious ways,” is an expression I am sure we have all heard at some point in our lives. However, the chain of events that unfolded in January 2012 shook me to the core but demonstrated how trust amongst individuals can sometimes save a life.
That January, the temperatures dropped so low I couldn’t recall a time when my backyard looked the way it did. Everything was frozen. Icicles hung from our house gutters, backyard Blue-Spruce trees bent slightly from the weight of the snow resting upon them, sounds of collisions happening down the street from cars losing control on the icy roads were heard throughout the day, and an occasional loud cracking sound came from the front yard as another large branch broke off our Douglas Fir tree that had been beautifully trimmed several months prior. Glancing out the front window I knew once the snow and ice departed, so would the tree because it had been badly damaged.
To my surprise I heard a knock at the front door, opened it, and was greeted by our UPS carrier Katie with a delivery that required a signature. We often exchanged friendly smiles, waves and occasional casual conversation when time permitted. I quickly signed for the document, exchanged brief pleasantries because it was chilly, and before she left answered a question about a neighbor that lived down the street. Katie noticed his mail was piling up, had knocked on his front door a couple of days in a row with no response and wanted to know if I knew him. I admitted I did not. He was an elderly gentleman that had lived there for years. My observation was the exterior of his home was unkempt, and he was rarely seen. Others neighbors reported the same thing with some feeling he was grumpy and wanted to be left alone. Through the years many of us had turned an invisible eye because what we saw was a vacant house. Since it was getting slightly dark, I promised Katie the following day I would find out what was going on.
The next morning I woke up thinking about the conversation Katie and I had and after dropping my daughter off at school decided to see what I could find out. A green garbage can was in the driveway and the color indicated that it was for the previous week’s collection cycle, since our neighborhood was on a rotating schedule. Newspaper was askew in the driveway, and after checking with neighbors no one could provide any clear answers. I thought I might appear crazy, but was functioning on a nagging feeling developing in my stomach. With the receiver in my hand, I dialed the Renton police.
They drove up within five minutes, stopped outside the home and began looking around. Using their batons I watched as a couple officers walked around the home looking to see what was going on, shouting for a response, and fighting their way through the overgrown brush that blocked the front door. They called me on the telephone asking many questions, and indicated there was no mail in the mail box. I explained the mail carrier must have taken it. She had told me it was there and I believed her. I explained the owners truck was parked in the driveway as usual, and there were advertisements hanging from his side mirror. I knew when we had received the same local advertising at our home. It had been about a week before. I continued talking and answered each question they presented. Finally there was nothing left to say except “you have to trust me and my gut.” They did.
Within ten minutes another officer appeared, and then what sounded like an episode of a police drama unfolded on the block. Boom! Boom! Sounds of a loud crash echoed. I knew they had busted my neighbor’s front door open. “Please be right,” I prayed, and then there was silence.
Our 86 year old neighbor was found inside the home injured, unable to get up, and near death. When questioned he was able to inform the officers he had been there for a week. Fortunately, this was an individual that was saved. Often the fast pace of life, chill of the cold months, or numerous other factors can cause our
invisible eyes to emerge. However, I am thankful for the link that can occur
amongst individuals even at times when we are unaware. It is during these times
we may learn a silent individual, may be speaking the words “I need help.”