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Welcome, Neighbor

Back when I was in my early thirties, we moved into a home, nestled in a group of well-established neighbors. It was one of those—“everyone knows everyone”—neighborhoods.

I’d just begun to unpack our belongings when there was a knock on the front door. It was Charlane—the unofficial neighborhood hostess.

She seemed to be about my mother’s age, with short, curly gray hair and a winning smile. Holding a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, she only stayed a few minutes—but not before offering any help we might need.

Later in the afternoon, she brought a casserole, in case we were too tired to cook. She’d just won me over.

Within a few weeks, Charlane hosted a neighborhood gathering—just coffee, conversation, and my first bite of her legendary Texas sheet cake—rich, chocolate frosted brownies. I’m sure many of the neighbors came not to just meet us, but they knew this treat awaited.

Charlane swept up our daughter into all the plans she had for her same-aged granddaughter—from picnics to lemonade stands on the nearby golf course. A neighborhood was where your friends lived. She made sure of it.

Then my mom got breast cancer. Charlane would send me cheerful cards. She’d bring bouquets of flowers for me to give Mom on my frequent visits. When Mom passed, Charlane showed me what silent caring looked like, inviting me to sit in the shade of her beautiful, trellised garden. We sipped iced tea. The beauty of the flowers, the warmth of the sun, and her comforting presence were exactly what I needed.

A few years later we decided to move 300 miles to Mom’s old cabin. Charlane planned a neighborhood farewell with the same folks who’d welcomed us. On our final evening she brought a casserole and another plate of chocolate chip cookies. We hugged. I’d miss this beautiful, big-hearted woman.

She also brought a box with a plant from her gorgeous flower garden. “Plant these and they’ll keep spreading. They’re hardy and live through anything.” We both knew she meant the hard things in life too.

Then I started receiving cards in the mail. She’d tell me about our old neighborhood and the happenings in town. I’d write back with our news.

Her flower transplants did well that first spring. In one of her cards, Charlane told me to divide them and keep planting them in new places. I did.

Early the next year, she wrote that she had cancer. Not Charlane! I wrote back immediately. It was then that I started sending uplifting cards like she once sent me. The following spring, just as her plants were starting to bloom, she lost her battle. The beautiful flowers seemed to say, “I’ll remind you of her.”

It’s been over 25 years, and Charlene’s flowers remind me every spring that her spirit is very much alive. Her life’s mission may have been completed here, but she gave me an excellent example on how to love your neighbor well.


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