These are two small stories between my neighbor and me, and theirs are two of the many kind hearts I have encountered since I set my foot to this strange land in 2010. Because of these kind hearts, I felt at home far away from home. While I do have many hardships on my journey, it is these small kindnesses that keep me tender-hearted and hopeful. Now whenever possible, l try to return the same kindness in my own way.
Last May, I moved into a new neighborhood with my dog. Like the calm and peaceful southern suburb itself, my life here is quiet and simple. Occasionally on some holidays, the loneliness also gently creeps into my mind, as I don’t have family members here. My daily life mostly follows this cycle: getting up, having breakfast, walking the dog, going to work, coming back, having dinner, walking the dog again, reading, then going to bed. Everything happens naturally and time passes by without notice. Until one night, after dog walking, I came back home and realized my phone was gone. At that moment, I felt panicked and then helpless in the dark. Nowadays, when we are in an urgent situation, our primary reflex is to take our phone out to call someone. My phone was gone, somewhere on the long road I’d walked in the past hour. And that phone had all my contacts. All my family members are in a chat app. Without my phone, I couldn’t even think of a way to get in touch with them.
I left my dog at home and returned to the road I had walked, but my heart knew this wasn’t going to work since it was now too dark. I then went to knock at the door of my neighbor who I had greeted briefly on their moving-in day. The wife opened the door, and I told her what had happened. She called her husband to help me. Then I jumped into his truck to drive to the places where my phone most likely got lost. He took out a flashlight and started to help me search. With the light and the friendly talk, my panic and craving for my family members faded away. The gratitude for my neighbor’s kindness and support turned into a bright flashlight in my heart. When everyone else may be unreachable for some reason, there are always neighbors.
Since the phone incident, we felt a bit closer to each other. The general greetings sometimes turned into a brief conversation about their son and his hobbies. I read somewhere that “your soul knows your people,” which I think perfectly expressed how I felt about my neighbors. We belong to a group of kind and warm people. One day, on my way back from dog walking, I saw several cars and people in front of my neighbor’s driveway. They were anxiously searching for something. The wife came to me with tear-filled eyes. She told me her cat went out and had gotten lost during their move to a new house. By that time, she had been walking and searching for 6 hours. I understood how worried she was; I had once lost my dog for one hour. In that hour, all the dreadful things came to my mind: what if she doesn’t know how to avoid traffic, what if she is thirsty and hungry, what if she is scared. My heart truly felt for my neighbor, and I hugged her. I also felt my heart soften so much by her deep love for her cat. After much chaotic daily news about viruses, wars, overdoses, racial injustice, and other concerns, the pure love dedicated to a cat is something from heaven that washes away the sand in my heart and brings the hope and warmth of love.
After that hug, I went home and had dinner. I was still thinking of her and the cat. I wondered about what I could do to help her feel better. I then grabbed some ice cream and brought it to her house. She sat in front of the door, waiting for the cat. I went there to sit next to her. She started to tell me the story of the cat and how that day was supposed to be a perfect day to spend in her new house with the family and the cat. Now the cat was gone, and she couldn’t leave the old house. We kept talking until her sister came. The company seemed to make her feel better. Early the next morning, she texted me that her cat had returned home at 3:00 am. I liked her message on the chat, and I felt relieved and happy for her. A few days later, I invited that neighbor family for hot pot. It was their first time trying it. Maybe they grew up with Cajun food, as they enjoyed the spicy meal. We had a good time together. They also sent me an invitation to their son’s birthday party.
Looking back, these two lost and found situations have brought something new and lovely. The small kindness between neighbors is such a true grace that ferments love, friendship, and hope. The small kindness in the world is like the small light in the dark, trivial, but warm and clear.
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