"Things are not always what they seem." So wrote the Greek philosopher, Phaedrus, 'way back in the days when Jesus trod this earth. Eighteen hundred years later Longfellow reiterated that thought in his "Psalm of Life." The truth of that gem of wisdom came home to me this past week. A new couple, in their thirties, came to live on this street about three months ago. The husband and his people happen to be lifelong friends of our next-door neighbors, Mrs. and Mrs. T.. The wife leans always toward discontent. My good neighbor, Mrs. T., helped the newcomers get settled. She remarked to me afterward, "If Mrs. M. only realized it, she is sitting on top of the world. She has the nicest home on Lilac Road; her husband buys everything her heart desires; a woman comes in twice a week and does her laundry and heavy cleaning; she has nothing to worry about. But she complains because her husband brought her away out here in the sticks." I met Mrs. M. at the birthday party for little Neil, our four-year-old darling next door. Conversation with her confirmed Mrs. T.'s remarks, and helped me to form a strong prejudice against her. I thought to myself, "Idleness breeds discontent. Why doesn't she do something useful?" As I was driving home with a big load of groceries the other day, I saw her, for the first time, walking to the store. She seemed to have difficulty in keeping her balance. She was staggering! She must be intoxicated! Yes, she was unmistakably DRUNK! And I felt the outrage to the very core of my being. Of all the sins that flesh is heir to, drunkenness is one for which I have no tolerance. I came home, all upset over "the disgrace to Lilac Road." My good neighbor, Mrs. T., was not home, to receive the first wave of anger. When she did come home, I told her about Mrs. M, "staggering up the street." "Oh, didn't you know about her trouble? She has something wrong with her legs - a partial paralysis, that makes it very hard for her to keep her balance. I thought you knew... She very seldom ventures out on the street for that reason." I hung my head in shame - for the unkind and unjust thoughts I had been thinking about that woman. She may be "sitting on top of the world," as far as ease and luxury may be concerned; but enforced idleness is apt to be drudgery to the soul. It is the most difficult thing for a sick person to keep a happy outlook on life. We who are able to work should rejoice over our good fortune.
Here is one more "adventure in neighborliness": My lovely little next-door neighbor, without fuss or fanfare, has been taking Mrs. M. to the store every Friday - all these weeks - and sending her own children on the lighter errands for her handicapped neighbor. ***
The day Virgil Sr. came back from the Pennsylvania hills it was pouring rain; so I met him at the end of the car line with our car. A woman was hurrying down Green Road (a main thoroughfare off which Lilac Road branches). Her umbrella was small protection against the driving rain. We pulled over to the curb and invited her to ride. She was most grateful. We asked her which street, and then which house was hers. "The first house on Liberty." The first house on Liberty! I had been wanting to lay eyes on - and, furthermore, lay my hands on the woman in the "first house on Liberty Road." That house is on Charlie's paper route; on his first Sunday morning delivery, when he was struggling to learn 92 new house numbers, she berated him for being so late. Naturally, under the circumstances, his resentment flamed high; and my reactions always resemble those of a she-bear, when someone is mean to one of my cubs. But here she was! Right in our car. What a chance to "tell her off!" But the desire melted away, in the presence of this poor, harassed woman, who was hurrying home from the hospital, where her beloved father lay at death's door. She had been nursing him for weeks, and finally had to turn him over to the care of strangers, kind and efficient though they be. I know from experience that old Satan finds an easy subject in a very tired and overwrought woman. Some days the whole world goes awry. And so I hope that Charlie will not judge too harshly, when someone unleashes taut nerves on him. The gentle Jesus, who trod the earth - not so far from Phaedrus - was saying to his listeners, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 9/10/42 - "There is a lady passing by ..."
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