Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

On top of a hill sits a building with closed doors and a path that once welcomed. On the curbside in front of the building, the building that is waiting, there are motionless police cars and road barriers, to divert anyone and everyone from reentering those doors. Doors that once opened wide, doors that said shalom to anyone and everyone. Deep inside a twisted and deranged mind, a man who found the doors open wandered along cascading tricolor hostas and falling tannin leaves loaded with shiny metal concealed under his garments. He wandered past a window where a woman painted portraits of black squirrels while sipping honeyed tea. Candy tucked in her cupboards for tossing in decorative bags held by costume-adorned children on that transcendental dreamy evening approaching. He wandered past another window where a motionless sleeping cat sat with only her belly rising and falling. He wandered further along past yet another window where a bearded man with spectacles gazed out and dreamed of a world so ancient and long forgotten. Leather bounded books arranged by title, line dusty book shelves. Ancient wisdom from these yellowed pages are read with a crooked index finger brushing underneath the text and spectacles on tips of his nose. He reconnects with that mystical past through fables he recites to his grandchildren. And if this man, the one with hate pulsing through his veins, kept wandering about in this neighborhood where Mr. Rogers’s once lived, he may have come across a home with children playing in the front while their mother inside prepared something warm for their mid-day meal. But the man did not find a home, nor a neighbor to greet for if he did, he may have stopped wandering for he would have been welcomed to sit and eat from a plate steaming with goodness and then he may have known what to do or not to do. Squirrel Hill may have still been a place where silently exploding alliums along manicured lawns would be the only noise heard. Yet pockets of poison have made its presence there. Now in homes are folks with bated breaths and on flushed cheeks tears streak. There is work to be done tomorrow and the day after for peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility is a daily practice. Running on reserved fuel, my heart in my throat prevents me from speaking.

In hands, heavy foreheads. In thoughts, missed friends and checked ballots. I cannot face another day of pain, I cannot standby. Courage for the sake of our children, consequences for impulsive and hateful behaviors and especially for those who turn their eye to look another way. For if they are lost and they are wandering, they maybe in need of a neighbor to take them in.The building is still waiting there with closed doors. Waiting to hear the key turn in the door. Waiting for voices to sing hymns, waiting for that salutation that says it all, shalom, to echo down the hall.

18 thoughts on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

  1. Your sensitivity and reflection upon the horror we have all “witnessed” once again, brought tears to my eyes. And here in CA, of course, we’ve experienced another mass shooting just two days ago. I don’t know what we can do, Cristina, but I want to do something. I’m not shy in my voting or responding to my Representatives, but that sure doesn’t seem to have much effect. Not knowing where you live I have to wonder about your proximity to Squirrel Hill, but I sense a very personal connection, and I just want to say that I feel your hurt, and respond to what it is to be a mother of young children in an age that appears so wantonly violent. Bless you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These events unfortunately are occurring more expectantly and in familiar places as it could happen anywhere. Schools have their protocols in place, however, what can you do when one person is armed for combat. I’ve been quite disappointed with my son’s school recently and how they don’t properly address impulsive and aggressive behavior nor do they have the counsel intervention for children who need the attention. This is where we can start, because a person who is cared for and feels security with ones self can make changes with their impulsive behaviors and prevent painful situations in the future. Even though, I have never set foot into The Tree of Life, it was a place where everyone was welcomed, a community where as the podcost Unorthodox recently broadcasted was so uniquely connected. It hit home how this could happen anywhere; Mr. Roger’s neighborhood has changed forever and so have all our lives. Shalom my friend, shalom to us all.

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      • So very astute of you, Cristina, to note that if we don’t address the behaviors in individual children and then again in group behaviors while children are still teachable and pliable, we have abrogated our social responsibility. I’m sorry you’re seeing that indifference is played out in your son’s school. I have more and more begun to wonder what we can proactively do to be better advocates for the safety of not just our children, but for all of us. After the shooting this week in Thousand Oaks a very distraught and angry mother responded, “I don’t want any more thoughts and prayers.” She went on to say more, and her grief sent shock waves up my spine. I’m listening. The violence over the last two weeks has left me deeply troubled, and I definitely hear (and I think feel) your pain. Shalom, to you, as well, my friend.

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      • Agreed enough of thoughts and prayers what can heartwrenched mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters do with that…we need to advocate our social responsibilities with preventative measures and awareness of everyone’s well being in the community.


  2. Wow. Such a powerful post, Cristina, meaningfully imagined and expressed.
    The remembrance events in Europe this weekend, and the French leader’s remarks, were chilling also. They reminded me of how easy it is for people to follow their hatred of others into the darkest, most evil places.

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    • Thank you Cynthia for voicing your kindered spirit here in my space. Let’s cultivate compassion even if our leaders lack it…let’s be stronger and not let other’s callous remarks leach into us…we need to conserve our energies for more caring.

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  3. An incredibly nuanced and moving piece Cristina inspired by such a horrific event. I never thought such things possible in my home country when I sailed away from there, but hatred and violence are becoming increasingly commonplace, much to my alarm; so much so that I question the wisdom of ever returning. But another side of me has me feeling that I should return home as soon as possible to actively advocate for peace and harmony. Hugs to you and your family.

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