“Just Being Neighbors,” Friend, Oct. 2000, 22
Jason stepped high and smashed his foot right in the middle of a muddy puddle again and again. Splat! Sploosh! Splat!
“Jason Andrew, what are you doing?” his mom hollered from the open kitchen door.
“I’m bored,” he replied as he walked toward the back door of his house.
“And you are muddy from the knees down.” His mom smiled at him. “Go change your pants and put on some dry socks and shoes. Then come back. I have something that you can do for me.”
As he went upstairs, Jason noticed that the house smelled of fresh-baked cinnamon-raisin bread. It made his mouth water. He really wanted a piece of the warm bread with lots of melted butter on it. But he would do what his mother wanted him to do first. After he changed, he went back downstairs to the kitchen.
“I’m here, Mom. What do you want me to do?”
His mom turned from the dishes and said, “Will you please carry this loaf of bread over to Sister Chester’s house for me? She can’t bake anymore, and she enjoys homemade things. She’ll probably try to say she doesn’t need it, but I want you to tell her, ‘Just being neighbors, Sister Chester.’ It is important to tell her in just those words. Can you remember them?” Jason nodded. “When you get home, you can have a glass of milk and a slice from this second loaf.”
Jason watched as his mom wrapped the fragrant bread in a piece of shiny foil. Then she placed a large red ribbon around it.
As he walked across the street with the warm bread, he practiced saying, “Just being neighbors. Just being neighbors.” He wondered why it was so important to say exactly that.
As Mom had said, Sister Chester objected to taking the bread. However, as soon as he said, “Just being neighbors, Sister Chester,” she smiled and took it.
“Thank you,” she said.
The screen door closed behind Jason with a bang when he came home. “Mom, why did Sister Chester change when I told her we were ‘just being neighbors’? After I said that, she smiled, took the bread, and said thank you.”
“Many years ago, before you were born, Daddy and I bought this house. I was expecting Rachel and became sick not long after we moved in. I had to stay in bed for about a month. One day, not long after I became ill, Sister Chester came over. She cleaned the kitchen; made dinner for your dad and me; and washed, dried, and folded all the dirty clothes. I tried to get her to stop, but she smiled that special smile of hers and said, ‘Just being neighbors, girl. Just being neighbors.’
“She came over almost every day to fix dinner and do chores until after I had Rachel. On days when she couldn’t come, she sent her granddaughter over with dinner.
“Now that she is older and can’t do as many things as she used to, it is my opportunity to help her. Doing things for others helps us to feel useful and good inside. Besides, it is what Father in Heaven wants us to do.”
After eating two slices of cinnamon-raisin bread (with melted butter) and drinking a large glass of cold milk, Jason went outside. He sat on the back porch with his chin in his hands.
He was bored again. He looked across the fence. Mr. Jensen’s yard was full of leaves. Normally he would have the leaves raked and bagged and sitting on the curb by now for the garbage collector to take. But Mr. Jensen’s arm was broken, and he didn’t have anyone to help him. Jason’s mom had just taken dinner over to him.
Jason’s face broke into a smile, and he headed for the shed.
As he began raking the leaves from Mr. Jensen’s yard, Mr. Jensen and Jason’s mom walked out of the house.
“Jason, you don’t need to do that,” Mr. Jensen said.
“Just being neighbors, Mr. Jensen, just being neighbors!”