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Rated: E · Short Story · Religious · #2307866
A story about Loving Neighbors
My sister, Evelyn, has to be the strangest person I ever met.

I mean, she's not mean. On the contrary, she's really nice, and that's part of the problem.

It was her idea that I join church choir and, actually, it was a pretty good idea. I made lots of friends and I really felt like I belonged there. But one day, we were walking home from choir practice and we passed a house that everyone in the neighborhood avoided like the plague. It belonged to an old lady named Pritchett and she had a reputation for being one of the most evil people on the block. She never spoke to anyone except to say, "Get Lost!" or something like that.

Normally, when we passed Old Lady Pritchett's house, we walked as quickly as possible, but today Evelyn suddenly stopped there.

"What are you doing Evelyn?"

"Actually, I'm just thinking about some things you told me before."

"Me? What do I have to do with it?"

"Well, remember when you told me about that book you've been reading? About the Rosary?"

"Right." I had started taking an interest in the Rosary a while back. It involves five sets of mysteries or events in the life of Jesus. And each mystery is supposed to have a fruit or lesson that you're supposed to take from it. I still didn't understand where she was going with this.

"Well, one of the mysteries is when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth. And isn't the fruit of that one love for your neighbor?"


"So our neighbor lives here."

"Oh no. If you're saying that we should love Old Lady Pritchett, forget it!"

Evelyn didn't respond directly. Instead, she pointed into the yard. I looked and saw that there were two boys near the fence. One had a rock in his hand and looked very nervous. "I'm not sure I want to do this," he said.

"Oh, don't be a baby," said the other one. "Just throw the rock through the window and run away. We won't get caught!"

"I don't think that's a good idea," said Evelyn stepping forward.

Evelyn's not particularly scary, but I guess she startled those boys. The second one bolted out of the yard and the first just froze with the rock in his hand.

"What do you think you're doing?" said Evelyn. "Destroying other people's property?"

"Well," said the boy. There were tears forming in his eyes. "I didn't really want to, but Bill said that I'd be a chicken if I didn't."

"BIll? Is that the boy who just went running out of here the minute he saw us? And you're worried about him calling you a chicken?"

The boy just looked at the ground and sniffled.

I decided to speak up. "Look, Evelyn. This kid isn't our problem. We should get out of here before--" but before I could finish, it happened. A car pulled up and it was being driven by Old Lady Pritchett. "

"What's going on here?" she demanded as she got out of her car with two bags of groceries in her arms. "What are you kids doing on my property?"

The boy looked even more terrified. But Evelyn had an oddly cool expression on her face. "Hello. I'm Evelyn and this is my brother, Jason, and. . ." she turned to the boy. "I never did get your name."

"David," sniffed the boy.

"Great, David. Anyway, we're here because of the Second Mystery of the Rosary."

I was stunned. I was thinking to myself. Tell me she didn't just say that.

But Old Lady Pritchett must have known something about the Rosary herself. "Hmmf! It 's been a while since I was in Catholic school, but isn't that when pregnant Mary visited pregnant Elizabeth and their babies started jumping around in the womb?" She glared at Evelyn. "Are you pregnant?"

For the first time, Evelyn looked a little put out. "Er. . .No, of course not!"

"Neither am I! So why don't you go away?"

That actually sounded like a pretty good argument to me, but Evelyn remained steadfast. "I think you're missing the point. The fruit of that mystery is Love of Neighbor, and I think I've figured out something interesting about loving neighbors. Would you like to hear it?"

"I'm begining to think I don't have a choice."

Evelyn ignored that and began. "You, know what Jesus said about loving neighbors, right? He said that you should love your neighbor as you love yourself. It's an interesting qualification. You only have to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

"So take this boy, David. I don't think he loves himself very much at all. He has such a low opinion of himself that cares what a stupid boy his age thinks of him. Ergo, he doesn't love his neighbors very much. He was about to throw rocks at their houses."

"What?" said Old Lady Pritchett.

"I didn't mean to," protested David.

"Don't worry about that now. Consider my brother, Jason. You know, he used to dislike himself. He didn't realize how intelligent, talented, and handsome he was."

Now, I had to interrupt. "You're the one who always used to tell me that I was dumb, untalented, and ugly!"

"Yeah, that's true," said Evelyn, "and I am sorry for that. But I didn't realize that if I stopped being that way and started helping you to love yourself, you would start loving people more the way you do.

"Finally, let's look at me. Believe it or not, I love practically everything about myself."

"I can believe it," murmured Old Lady Pritchett.

"I mean," Evelyn went on, "I love the way I look. I love my fashion sense. I love that I'm first soprano in the church choir, and I love that I was able to help my brother."

She also loves her humility, but that's another story.

"Now, the result of that is that I have to love my neighbor, namely you, a lot more than most people have to love their neigbors, See how it is?

"So, how should we start? How about if I give you a great big hug? Or we could help you with those groceries."

"Don't even think about touching me!" said Old Lady Pritchett. She sighed. "I suppose, you could help me cary these."

"Great! We'll all help."

We? I didn't understand why I should help with something like that and I think David was thinking the same thing, but I didn't know how to get out of it, so we each grabbed a bag and we all walked into the house. The inside was kind of dark, but we found a kitchen and set the groceries down on it. Then, Evelyn noticed something else.
"Was that a piano in your living room?"

"What else would it be?" said Ms. Pritchett.

"Great! Do you play?"

"Not anymore. Arthritis. Besides that thing hasn't been tuned in years."

For a minute, Evelyn became less cheerful. "Well. . .still. . .you must like music. Which means there's another way we can 'love' you. My brother and I can sing for you."

Oh no!

"What would you like to hear?"

Without waiting for a response, Evelyn began belting out Schubert's Ave Maria. I wasn't going to join with her on that. Her voice went places I didn't think possible. When it was over, Ms. Pritchett looked mildly impressed for the first time.

"That's not bad," she said. "Do you boys sing too?"

"Well, obviously, my brother does." Evelyn turned to David. "What about you? Do you like to sing?"

David shook his head quickly. "No! Never."


David started to elaborate. "Last year, we had to sing a song for my graduation from Elementary school. One day, while we were rehearsing, the teacher pulled me aside and told me not to sing. Just stand in the back and mouth the words to the songs. So I did."

"That was mean!" I was suprised when I realized that Ms. Pitchett had said that. Even if it was, more or less, what I was thinking.

Ms. Pritchett seemed to become more lively. "Anyone can sing. It just takes a little more work for some people than others." She looked at the three of us thoughtfully. "Do you kids know the play, Godspell.

I don't know about the others, but I had heard of it. Didn't really know much about it, though.

"Well, there's a real easy song in that play. At least as far as the lyrics are concerned. She started singing:
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord.
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord

"Believe, it or not, that's the whole song. Want to try it?"

The four of us tried a few repetitions.

"Great, why don't you boys keep singing that, and Young Lady, you and I can try a harmony that goes like this:

Long Live God!
Long Live God!
Long Live God!
Long Live God!

We did. And by the end of it, we were all singing and smiling.

But after that, I looked at my watch and reminded Evelyn that Mom would be waiting for us.

"Well, then you can go," said Ms. Pritchett. "But. . .well. . .Thank you for coming. Oh and one other thing. . ."she stammered and looked at Evelyn. "I was wondering if I could have that hug before you left."

"Sure," said Evelyn, and all three of us ended up hugging her.

As we were walking out of her yard, we said 'Good-bye" to David. He had a thoughtful look on his face. "You know," he said, "that thing you said about loving yourself as much as you love others. Do you think it's true?"

"Of course! Do you think I make these things up? Hating yourself makes you hate others. Loving yourself makes you love others."

"So, I wonder if the big world is like that too. I mean, at school, we learned about Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. It sounds like the real reason he hated Jews was that he hated himself and the fact that he couldn't draw."

"That is a perfect example, " I said.

"And maybe now, in the Middle East, the reason Arabs hate Israelis is partly because they don't love themselves very much, and the other way around."

Evelyn crouched to David's level. "You may not be the best singer, but you are a great thinker." And then she kissed him on the cheek. "The world needs more people like you."

Unfortunately, I agree with her. It does.

1,758 words

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