Who Is My Neighbor?

Writer Author  Janet Seever
Christian Article : Loss  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer I first rang her doorbell as a volunteer, collecting funds for the Cancer Society in April 2002. The weather was still chilly, but tulips had already poked through the ground, and were beginning to open in front of her house.

The dark-haired woman from South Asia who answered the door told me she wasn’t interested.

“But nearly everyone has a relative or friend dealing with cancer,” I said. “I’m here as a volunteer because my grandmother died of cancer many years ago.”
The expression on her face softened. “I had cancer surgery over ten years ago,” she said with a heavy accent. “Please come in.”

She served me tea and told me her story. She and her family had been in Canada only two years and she had very few friends. A lonely woman, she seemed eager to have someone to talk with. I wasn’t at all sorry I wasn’t able to finish my collection route that afternoon. After all, she was my neighbor, just five houses down from me.

“Please come back again and visit me,” Shandah* said as I was leaving. So I did.

I learned about her family and her customs. She had grown up in a Muslim country as a Muslim, but had attended a Catholic school as a child. She had heard the story of Jesus in school.

“When I was growing up, I wanted to be a nun,” she said with a laugh.
I told her I was a Christian, which was fine with her. “All religions are good,” She said.

I visited her every week or two so she had someone to practice English with, and because she was lonely. It was her custom to stay in her house. She wasn’t used to doing housework and cooking because she had servants in her homeland to do those things. To fill in her spare time, she often did lovely oil paintings, which filled her walls.

Before coming to visit, I’d call her and ask, “Do you want a visit today?” to which she would respond with a cheery, “Sure, why not?”

We’d greet each other with a hug and she would bring out orange juice, cake or some type of pastry, nuts and tea. Gracious hospitality was her custom. Each visit ended with a large cup of tea with milk and sugar.

When her daughter was going through severe marriage problems, Shandah vented her frustration, and I provided a listening ear. My Bible study group prayed for her and her family, which was fine with her.

One time we watched the Jesus film together in her national language. Her response was that she had heard it before. “I wish Bush would watch this film,” she said, anger rising in her voice. (It was the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.)
“Because President Bush should love his neighbor?” I ventured, not certain just what her response would be.

“Yes,” she responded, fire in her eyes. I quickly let the subject drop and didn’t have the heart to tell her that President Bush already knew the content of the film.

When she studied for her test to become a Canadian citizen, I spent several of my visits asking her questions from the handbook. She passed with flying colors.
One time in the summer of 2003 she was eager to tell me about a dream she had. (Dreams have great significance in her culture). Three people in the dream put a bracelet on her arm. On the bracelet was a picture of a man with a crown on his head like a king. “Who is that?” she asked, to which the people in her dream responded, “That’s Jesus. He will protect you.” That dream had significance to her, and it was one of our topics of conversation in the following weeks.

Soon after that I gave her a paper with Bible verses and “Steps to Peace with God.” “Just pray the prayer if you are in really dangerous circumstances or afraid you are dying,” I told her.

Early in 2004, because of various family circumstances, she and her husband felt they should return to their homeland in South Asia. As they prepared, I visited her, knowing how I would miss her when she left. Then one day in Feb., she had trouble breathing. Her doctor did a bone scan and a lung scan, and checked the fluid in one of her lungs for cancer cells. Was her cancer back after nearly fifteen years?

Wanting some way to encourage her, I went to a Christian bookstore and searched for a bracelet like the one in her dream, but none like it existed. However, I got a bracelet with the words ‘faith,’ ‘peace,’ ‘friend,’ ‘courage,’ and ‘love’ on it. I also bought a Bible Promise book and marked the pages with verses on “fear” and “God’s protection.” When I showed her the topic, “God’s Protection,” Shandah’s eyes widened with surprise. So what she had seen in her dream really was in the Bible!

I helped her with her packing as she and her husband moved out of their house. Awaiting results of her cancer test, they stayed with another family. Then suddenly, without any warning or saying good-bye, they left for South Asia. I wrote several times, but when I heard nothing from her, I called her overseas phone number.

Sadness filled her voice as she answered the phone. “I’m not good,” she said. “I just couldn’t write to you and tell you.” Cancer was back in one of her lungs and she was now on chemo. Her doctor in Canada had told her she absolutely could not fly, but she and her husband had flown back anyway. I had guessed as much. The struggle she faces with her illness will be hard. I assured her of my prayers and prayed for her over the phone.

Today as I walked down the block, I noticed the tulips in front of her old house are once again up and will soon be turning the garden into a rainbow of colors. What a vivid reminder they are of my special friend, Shandah.

As I look around my own house I see reminders of my friend everywhere as well. Before leaving, she gave me four of her large plants, her beautiful coffee table and end table set (because I had once made a joke about not having a coffee table), and a variety of other smaller items— all from the heart. I am sad, but my life is richer because of knowing her.

Someone once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus followed with the story of the Good Samaritan. In my case, my “neighbor” was a lonely stranger far from her home culture who needed God’s love. And through that shared love, she became a special friend.

*Name changed and homeland called “South Asia” because she comes from a Muslim country where Christians are a persecuted minority.

© 2004 Janet Seever Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Writer Author
State: Alberta
Country: Canada
Email: jseever1@shaw.ca
Website: www.inscribe.org/members/janet-seever
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