This is the fourth story of hidden gems discovered in everyday.
In Minnesota, we have had a rough February of very wintery weather. We have had frigid sub-zero days sandwiched between very blustery and snowy days. It’s February. In Minnesota.
16 years ago we made the crazy decision to move in February. Although we weren’t moving far between houses, the weather was cold, icy and snowy. I’ll maybe tell you more on those hard lessons learned another day…
We moved into our neighborhood and had few houses around us at that time. Only one right next door. “I hope they are friendly and nice.”
We get to the busyness of moving, and it snows. Ugh. No snowblower here or shovels. By the time we can ponder shoveling, our new neighbor has plowed us out! “What in the world kind of guy is this?” We headed over to thank them and discovered our mystery snowblower is named Bill. He’s not home at the time, and we ask how we can repay him. His wife Betty says, “no- it’s just what Bill does.” Who is this guy.?! Over the next several years we discovered who this Bill was. He looked like a tough Harley guy (ok, so he was a Harley guy, and maybe you wouldn’t want to be on his bad side) but he was a big generous teddy bear. Bill set an example for us on what neighbors should look like. You see someone needs help- you help. You look out for each other. You respect each other. He called himself our girl’s “Uncle Bill.” He’d even offered to chase away any unsavory boys who might come to call! This was a great neighbor to have. He was patient with our dogs- one who loved him and tried to follow him home…and did! I would see him out in the yard talking to our dogs as they watched his every move. Bill was always working to improve something in his yard or garage. But still had time for pleasantries across the yard line.When Bill was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, it broke our hearts. We told him how sorry we were and he’d shrug and say, “It is what it is.” I’ll do one day at a time. His treatment was rough, but he powered through. He went through what he had to do to get more time with his family. His perseverance and determination were remarkable. This big guy was powering through something stronger than himself. He never played it off as being easy, but he always maintained his sense of hope. Even in his pain and frustration he never failed to be kind and caring towards others.
When I was diagnosed just a couple years later, we headed next door to tell Bill and Betty. Bill got misty-eyed and put his arm over my shoulder- “welcome to the crappy cancer club” wink. He assured me that it’d be ok. Not cancer so much as my spirit. (I only understand that now.)He also gave me some pointers- “Get the port!” “See, it’s no big deal. (pulling down the collar of his shirt to reveal the bump under his skin) But you’ll be glad you did!” That was Bill. Always encouraging and generously giving of himself.
We lost Bill in 2015. Physically. But he’s still here. In our hearts. His passion and love for others were inspiring. His imprints on our neighborhood were still evident.
Over the last year, we have had a turn over of most of the houses on our street. We recently had a new neighbor move in on the other side of us. I heard these crazy people were moving in February from Arizona! I headed over to welcome them to the neighborhood. Yes, Minnesota weather can be hard. But this is an excellent place to be. Let us know if you need anything. “What a surprise. I’m blown away”, was the response of the newest addition to our street. Well, let me tell you a story about when we moved in years ago…and about a neighbor named Bill. That’s why we do what we do. You would’ve loved Bill.
When you meet someone like Bill, you start to appreciate the natural ease of the generosity of giving and take. Helping another is not done to gain for yourself. You do it because it feels good to ease the burden of another. You also discover that life is more enjoyable when you can have easy and kind small talk across the yard or can tackle a task shoulder to shoulder. Betty moved away a little over a year ago. We still miss them terribly. But are so happy for the fresh start for Betty. The imprints Bill left behind could be too tangible. But we take that loss and try to pour its influence into others. To develop a new community around us that reflects some of that legacy left by Bill. ❤️
I hope that you all have a neighbor like Bill. If not, I hope that this can encourage you to be a neighbor like Bill. It is good for your heart and soul to live generously and to take the little extra time to extend kindness across the fence line. Who are your Bills and Bettys? Today might be a good day to let them know you appreciate them.