A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


For years Trevor and Sandra have been telling everyone in the neighborhood that they are from England. But I'm not buying it.

Those authentic-sounding accents and cute little Anglo-Saxon ways are just part of a very clever disguise. The truth is and I am absolutely convinced of this my next-door neighbors are actually guardian angels, sent by God to keep an eye on my family.

And believe me, it's been a full-time job.

When plumbing issues threatened to turn our basement into Loch Mess, Trevor was there with his tools and years of plumbing expertise. When hornets were turning my shed into their own private condominium complex, Trevor taught me how to get rid of them (humanely, of course). When we needed to find a way to get water to a strip of grass by our mailbox without having to tear up our driveway in order to install a new water line, Sandra told us to just tap into their sprinkling system -- no problem.

See what I mean? Angelic.

Take last night, for example. Our church congregation was holding a self-reliance night. Everyone was supposed to pretend there was some kind of emergency where we had no electricity or gas, and we had to make do for the evening with whatever supplies we had in our homes. But it was an interesting and revealing exercise, intended to help us get a sense of the kinds of things we need to have on-hand for light, for cooking, for information and for food.

I had a real-life emergency at work, so I wasn't able to participate. But Anita said it was actually kind of fun. She warmed some soup on our little camp stove, and our lantern provided more than enough light. The kids played games instead of watching TV, and everyone seemed to be having a good time until Anita noticed that the electricity was not on. Evidently, someone decided to "help" us with our mock emergency by shutting down the power.

Which was OK, I guess, until time came to end the exercise and Anita didn't know how to turn the power back on. She called me, but that was a little like calling Ben and J-Lo to ask for marriage advice. I know how to change a light bulb and flick the switch on and off, but that's about the extent of my electrical expertise. But I did know where to go to get answers.

"Go ask Trevor," I said. "He'll know."

And of course, he did.

"What did we ever do to deserve such great neighbors?" Anita asked when she called to tell me that peace and power had been restored to our house.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a better answer for that question than I did for the one about turning the power on. For the life of me, I couldn't think of anything I had done to make a positive difference in Sandra and Trevor's lives. I try to keep Jon's basketball off of their front lawn.

And I think I shoveled snow off of their front walk once. But aside from that, the gateway to neighborliness seems to swing only one way between our houses.

But that is going to change, as of today. Sandra and Trevor have inspired me. I'm going to try to be as good a neighbor to them as they have been to me. And not just them. I have other neighbors. Surely I can find ways to be kind and thoughtful to them, too. Maybe we can all inspire each other to increased love and kindness and helpfulness. What a positive difference that can make in our neighborhoods, and in our lives.

Which is exactly the kind of thing a guardian angel would do, don't you think?

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--- Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through