Love Thy Neighbor

January.24.2012

When I was growing up, the concept of neighborhood came easy. My best friend lived next door and all the houses around us were families we knew and cared about. If someone needed something, neighbors were eager to help.

Now that I live in relative isolation, I realize I probably took that sense of community for granted. We have neighbors here, but to visit almost any of them, it would take more than a simple walk to get to their house.

That is, except one. There is a small private cabin that is essentially in the middle of camp. The cabin was here prior to the camp being established, so that alone makes for a unique dynamic. They even have to drive on our driveway to come and go from the cabin.

During my first several years, this cabin was only used in the non-winter months. I had a good relationship with them and I hope they feel the same.

However, In the last two years, it has been a little different. One of the relatives of the family has been staying in the cabin through the winter despite not having running water or a furnace. I’m sure that cannot be an easy existence, but it typically does not impact me or the camp other than a few times that I’ve needed to pull his car out of the snow.

Our neighborly stance became strained this summer though. On one instance where I was already kind of at my wits end, I saw a vehicle going way too fast on our road, probably in excess of 30 miles per hour. I yelled as loud as I could to slow down. I knew that our kids often walk on the road between our house and camp, so that kind of driving really was not safe.

I confronted him on this when he returned to camp with as much self control as it could muster, but all the anger that should come from a father worried for his children’s safety. Needless to say, this confrontation made things a little awkward going forward.

Fast forward to last Friday. I was working in the office when this neighbor came running in.

“I need your help.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I have a chimney fire.”

Now, it is probably important to clarify something. While I have spent the last 6 years here trying my best to fake it till I make it when it comes to being a rural community member. I do know that the word “fire” is bad though.

I went over to the house and I could see flaming ash flying out of the chimney. The wavy lines of heat stretched two feet out of the top of the masonry. This is not good.

When I entered the cabin, I was met with a blanket wall. He had divided the house to try and trap the heat, but in the process it also trapped the smoke. I pulled back the blanket and could not see more than a few inches in front of me.

My mind raced as I tried to put together the best way to put out the fire. Would it be dangerous to put water on it? Would it make the masonry crack or explode if it cooled too fast?

As is often the case with these odd situations, I called our camp maintenance manager for advice. He told me to put salt on it. I didn’t ask questions and found a bag of ice melt on the front step. It quickly choked out the fire and slowed the heat as the oxygen was stripped out of the chimney.

Once things slowed down, my neighbor thanked me and we parted ways.

It is hard to say that helping someone in an emergency is following the commandment to love thy neighbor, but it’s a start. I like to think that I would have the same heart and intention in a less dire circumstance, but only time will tell if that is true.

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