I enjoyed my quiet time on the front porch this morning. It was “peacefully noisy”. The melodious chatter of the birds filled the air. A cool breeze rustled through the leaves. The goats next door loudly conversed with each other and a rooster somewhere in the distance crowed his good morning to the world.
While I sat in my rocking chair contemplating life, a squirrel crept through the yard and stopped to partake of birdseed and nuts that had spilled from my feeders above. He watched me as intently as I watched him. Believe it or not, squirrel watching brought back sudden memories from my childhood. Funny, how memories are. They can come on at anytime, out of the blue, and they bring with them intense feelings. This particular memory is of my childhood neighbor, Dale. He always carried peanuts in his pockets to feed the squirrels while he worked in his yard. “His squirrels” became so accustomed to this that they actually would climb up on Dale as he slept on a lounge chair in his backyard and take the peanuts out of his pockets themselves.
Dale’s generosity didn’t just extend to squirrels. From the moment my mom, sisters and I moved in next door, he did whatever he could to make us feel welcomed! This is where the intense feelings come in….We moved in 1971 after my dad left our family. We were all grieving and brokenhearted. As I look back now, I realize it didn’t take Dale long to know that we were in desperate need of someone to care for and look out for us. He took it upon himself to do just that. We never knew what to expect….big signs on our doors, poems and stories adorned with pictures cut out of magazines, or a snowman holding a welcome home sign built out of the first snow on our back steps. He was quick with a smile and a joke. He and his wife, Lois quickly became more than our neighbors, they became family.
Generosity……something that is harder and harder to find in the world today and yet needed more than ever. I regret now that I never expressed to Dale what his kindness meant to me. I don’t think he ever knew how important he was to us and how much his freely given love did to begin to mend our hearts. It is 42 years later and his actions are still an inspiration. I would like to believe that my attempts at putting others first and looking for little ways to reach out are a direct result of having been so generously treated.
Dale’s actions were unselfish, creative, and yes, sometimes a little nutty, but just like the squirrels that grew to trust him enough to feed them, three young girls and their mom grew to trust him too. You see it wasn’t just Dale’s pockets that were filled to overflowing it was also his heart. Today’s rush of memories are an important reminder and a challenge to me to more freely give of myself and my time. What about you? Is there someone in your life you need to thank for being generous or is there someone who needs to be touched by the power of YOUR generosity? Don’t wait until it’s too late, because speaking as one who knows, there’s no doubt that we would all be much better off if we were just a little nuttier like Dale.