a way of life

April 28th, 2020

Last night my daughter came in the front door carrying a foil-covered pan with a note taped to the top. It was from a neighbor. “Thank you for the lemons!” the note read, “Enjoy.” And we did. The lemon muffins were something else.

For a couple of days last week my husband placed a box of lemons from our tree on the sidewalk with an invitation: “Take some! Untouched by human hands.” I never saw anyone take one, but folks sure did, and when the box emptied, he’d fill it again.

I can’t remember the last time I borrowed a cup of sugar from a neighbor, if you know what I mean. I can’t even remember the last time I knocked on a neighbor’s door. There’s a field army of delivery people who know all the names and addresses on every street in this country, but I’ve never met the family two doors down. The quarantine has awakened a spirit of neighborliness that had all but died around here. Before that, we were all so busy and bothered, lacking nothing, having plenty of everything on hand, and a Trader Joe’s right down the street, what did we need neighbors for? What was their name again? And are their kids grown up and gone already?

Some politicians are rationalizing the lifting of restrictions right now, saying it’s not just about saving lives but saving “the American way of life.” I don’t know what that way of life is, well, I do, but as I recall it wasn’t exactly alive. The American way was becoming ever-more mean, self-absorbed and greedy, not awake or aware, not humane or even human. It didn’t knock, it didn’t speak, it didn’t care, and it certainly didn’t go out of its way to trade a lowly lemon for a batch of the world’s best lemon muffins.

Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash



  1. I still say “hello” to whomever I pass while out running on the streets. I refuse to be afraid, or show fear. I decided to share juicy oranges from the 40+ year old tree in my backyard with a local group who are feeding people in their small way. I will need to pick 400, wash them, and deliver them this Friday morning. I got my work to do.

    Comment by mary ann — April 28, 2020 @ 9:30 am

  2. My husband and I went to a local nature preserve last Sunday. Although people were there, we could safely pass the few folks we saw on the trails we hiked. When we passed a couple and their young daughter, we greeted each other like old friends. The man said that the good thing about these times is that none of us are strangers. I think that’s true. Not strangers at all.

    Comment by Debra Bures — April 28, 2020 @ 3:07 pm

  3. I love the Millers! And even though I don’t live across the street anymore… I know you would always be there for my family across the street. Weird times. Thank you for being you. Sending hugs the Millers love and prayer.

    Comment by Mikala Rahn — April 29, 2020 @ 9:30 pm

  4. More than ever, I’m grateful for a hello, a kind word, a gesture, some connection that affirms we’re in this together. “There is a realm of time,” writes the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share.” Your post eloquently pays tribute to this truth. Thank you.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — April 30, 2020 @ 12:42 pm

  5. I think our true nature wants to share. I was planting out sprouting pumpkin seeds yesterday and of course there were too many. While putting them in pots of soil I was wondering who to give them to.
    In the way we were before corona, consumerism taught us that what we own represents who we are. This lock down shatters that belief.

    Comment by Sim — May 4, 2020 @ 1:48 am

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