I have no expectation of a neighbor, except that they be honest and pleasant and neighborly. I never expected one to be perfect, but Theo King was, in the words of a song by the group Alabama, "Close Enough to Perfect for Me."
Soon after I moved to my current home, I noticed he hung something that looked like plastic grocery sacks on his mailbox every Wednesday. When I caught him walking his dog by my mailbox one evening, I asked him. He said it was "food items for the garbage men." He had left goodies for them for years.
Now I knew that Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you do it to the least, you do it to me," but I had never seen anyone interpret that to mean doing favors for garbage men. They are essential in a civilized society, but not many civilized people in our society value them very highly.
Theo cut his own grass into his early 80s but began to have some physical problems, and his family had increasing concerns for him. His health was declining, but he loved our little neighborhood and had been here so long that it made his heart heavy to think about leaving it.
The last conversation I had with him while he was still here was at the end of my driveway when he came by walking the little dog he loved so much. He almost brought me to the point of tears telling me how long he had been here and how much he loved all his neighbors. It hurt him keenly to think about going to an assisted-living place.
Soon after he moved to Morning Pointe, I picked him up and took him to lunch at Countryside. He had nothing but good things to say about Morning Pointe but added, "You know, when you live somewhere as long as I did, it will always feel like home and all your neighbors will always feel like family."
He acknowledged his health had declined and that his family was right in wanting him in an environment where there was more monitoring of his condition and more help available when he needed it.
Still, I ached for him just like I am sure his family did. There are so many seniors similarly situated who are giving up their roots due to declining health and trying with all their might to put down new roots in new situations. We are so fortunate to have the Morning Pointes of the world, but the heartbreak old people feel over leaving their homes is often almost overwhelming.
I shall always remember that lunch at Countryside, the joy he expressed in having had a great life, the pride he felt in his family and his testimony about the comfort of having God as your best friend.
I have never had any desire to have some high church official or even a good preacher friend to pray and lay hands on me, but as I thought about Theo's sacks for the garbage men, I felt a desire to ask him to do that. I didn't because I felt it would embarrass him.
It doesn't matter. He had already laid hands on my life. His example of reaching out to "the least of them" will forever be with me.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.