Headlines from First Thoughts

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sunday, December 17-- Gifts of Neighbors

Christmas day is difficult for some people, especially if the day is associated with grief. I heard this story told in McGregor, when I was pastor of First Baptist. Jim Johnson described a painful moment that turned into an opportunity to share love.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lange, German immigrants, had lived for many years on property west of our farm. Their three sons and two daughters had grown up and moved away. We had three boys and one girl living at home.

"Our family and the Langes shared good times and bad times. When my parents moved next to the Langes, Dad thought the fence should be rebuilt. Instead of protesting like most neighbors would, Mr. Lange pitched into pay for the fence and helped Dad built it.

'Good neighbors keep a good fence,' Mr. Lange said.

"When Harris Creek running through our farms overflowed after a heavy rain, Dad and Mr. Lange would go to work togeteher repairing the barbwire water gap. If a cow crossed onto the othe's farm, it was cared for and returned to its own herd.

'That man is honest,' Dad would say of Mr. Lange. 'He treats his wife and children good.'

"I felt safe knowing our neighbors a half-mile away were ready to help with any problem.

"Mr. Lange, who was older than Dad, developed heart problems, and Mom and Dad visited to help the Langes however they could. Mrs. Lange often insisted we go with her to the cellar to pick out canned goods to take home.

"Across the open fields, from our front porch, Dad kept a watchful eye on the Langes' visitors.

"We awoke on that cold, icy Christmas morning. When Dad came from the barn, he said, 'There are a lot folks at the Langes'.'

"Two aunts were visiting our family of six. Just as Mom pulled the turkey and dressing from the oven, the telephone rang.

'My father died this morning,' said one of the Lange girls.

"Grief and pain filled me parents' faces. Dad took one look at the turkey and said, 'Mama, I'll be back in a little while. I'm taking this to the Langes.' Mom nodded.

"When Dad returned, we gathered around the table. Dad gave thanks to our Master for food and for a good friend and neighbor. I don't remember what Santa Claus gave me that year, but I remember the gift my parents gave me-- a gift of how neighbors love one another."

One of the first people I met in McGregor, and still to this today one of our good friends, was one of those "Lange girls." They're still sharing the story, and showing the example learned from the Lange's and the Johnson's one painful Christmas day.

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