Friday, September 14, 2012


In October of 1993, in the town of Worchester, Massachusetts, police found an old woman dead on her kitchen floor. This was no ordinary discovery-she had been dead four years. Police speculated she died at age seventy-three of natural causes. That is when her bank transactions ended.

How can someone be so cut off from relationships that no one even notices when he or she dies?

To some extent it was a mistake. According to the Associated Press, four years earlier, neighbors had called authorities when they sensed something might be wrong. When the police contacted the woman’s brother, he said she had gone into a nursing home. Police told the postal service to stop delivering mail. One neighbor paid her grandson to cut the grass because the place was looking run-down. Another neighbor had the utility company come and shut off the water when a pipe froze, broke, and sent water spilling out the door.

To a great extent, though, it was not a mistake.

One friend from the past said, “She didn’t want anyone bothering her at all. I guess she got her wish, but it is awfully sad.”

Her brother said the family hadn’t been close since their mother died in 1979. He added, “Someone should have noticed something before now.”

The woman had lived in her house in this middle-class neighborhood for forty years, but none of her neighbors knew her well. “My heart bleeds for her,” said the woman who lives across the street. “But you can’t blame a soul. If she saw you out there, she never said hello to you.”

As this neighborhood shows, a spirit of community only results when all of us reach out to one another. Relationships take effort.

From Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers - Craig Brian Larson. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000. Page 31.

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