Nine Doors Down

I apologize for not talking about managing our time today as I’d said I would. I’ll return to that topic sometime next week. My plans were shifted by shock. Read on:

She lived nine doors down.

In the two years we’ve lived in this subdivision, I’d seen her on my walks.

Perhaps she was rolling her trash out to the curb. Or in her front yard watering her flowers.

I’d smile and said “hi”, just for a brief second.

After all, my neighborhood is big; my life is busy.

So I’d pop my Ipod earbuds back into my ears.

And I’d keep walking.

Nine doors down.

Just nine doors down this past week flashed lights and sirens and all things alarming.

A fire? I thought as I turned into my sub, returning from  an errand-running venture.

My mama heart raced. My son was home alone. Had he burnt some toast and set the smoke alarm system blaring?

Or worse?

Had a car caught fire or a power line fallen?

As my car crept closer to home, I saw it was not my house. Relief for my soul. And though the rescue vehicles were parked in front of her house, no fire appeared to be blazing at my nine-doors down neighbor’s house either.

“Must have been a false alarm”, I reasoned to myself.

It was two days later when I heard the awful news.

No fire. No smoke. Just a saddened soul.

You see, nine doors down, something happened in the soul of my nameless, flower-watering, ‘smile and say hi’ fellow human being; something told her this life was not worth living anymore.

So she made sure she stopped living.

Her heart no longer beats.

Her flowers still grow, but she can’t water them anymore.

I can still walk by her house, lost in the Jesus-music blaring on my Ipod.

But there will be no more waves. No smiles as I stroll. And no more thoughts of, “I should stop and find out her name. I haven’t really met this gal yet.”

But the conversation my husband and I have had for the past year will continue. Perhaps with greater urgency now.

In our old neighborhoods (there have been three) we’ve made it a goal to offer a Bible study. A low-key, doesn’t-matter-if-you’ve-ever-gone-to-church-before, short and simple meeting of folks who all happen to live in the same development.

Todd does this at work too. Men and women meet on their breaks to gather round and meet Jesus. Many for the first time. Their curiosity is piqued when they are handed a flier announcing the short, you-don’t-need-to-know-nothing-“Jesus-y“-to-attend  study.

Others in his factory throw the flier in the trash.

Yes, right after Todd hands it to them.

In our neighborhood, we’ve not yet passed out fliers. Is it too soon? We haven’t held a Christmas open house to meet everyone yet. We’ve baked bread and pulled weeds for those real near by. But haven’t struck a friendship with too many others.

So we’ve pondered, is it time?

And do we have time?

So far we’d answered no.

Now, nine doors down, no flier is needed for the single gal who is no more.

Would things have been different if she’d gotten an invitation? Or would she have rolled it out to the curb with the rest of her trash?

God only knows.

I cannot beat myself up; but I can do something.

So can you.

We can stop, permitting God to tap us on the heart,  gently interrupt, and rearrange our day.

We can go deeper; beyond a “hi!” to an authentic “Who are you?”

Will you do it?

Will you at least try?

Then, leave the results up to God.

Results are His job.

Obedience is ours.

And trust me, it is AWFUL to get to know your neighbor through the tales and tears of her relatives as she lies lifelessly nearby in a coffin.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17

May we all respond to those taps on our hearts today and not ignore them and keep walking. God just may use us as He saves a life.

After all, remember…..

It isn’t a far walk.

It is just nine doors down.


If you hear God tapping too, will you respond? Will you think of one person whom you see often but have never gotten to know? Then, do something.

Ask them their name. Thank them for bagging your groceries faithfully for ten years. Hand them a thank-you card if they are someone who serves. If it is a neighbor, invite them for coffee or soda or sweet tea. Offer kind words or a hug. Anything to show God’s love. Who in your life is just ‘nine doors down’? I’d love to know.


  1. Thank you! I have been “urged” to share God with a long distance friend for a couple years but didn’t because I thought I’d lose the friendship. But God was persistent so I sent a Bible for Christmas with my testimony. No results yet so I thought I did something wrong but you showed me today that mine is not for results but to be obedient. Now I can so this and kow His word will not return void……thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Karen ~ I definitely needed to read this post. I don’t remember the name of the song but we sang it every week in church growing up … Lord, teach us to pray … it’s been a long and cold December kind of day …with our hearts and hands all busy in our quiet little wars we stand and watch each other now from separate shores we lose the way… We need to find the way to really live … teach us the way. I know He tries but we need to respond to his tap. Thank you for sharing this reminder.

  3. I can so relate to this post, my daughter died and neighbors that I had not taken the time to get to know showed up at my door to express their sympathy – what a way to meet! I have since moved into an apartment and when I pray in the mornings I ask God to bring the people into my life that I need to meet/talk too & give me the wisdom and the words to say – it works and I have met so many wonderful new people & some have become friends. Blessing.

  4. Thanks for sharing, My husband has recently asked me to read a book called “Courageous Living” by Michael Catt, and as i read it is seems that the simple things like getting to know neighbors may someday be considered being courageous, because it is different from the cultural norms. Thanks for the reminder

  5. Sadly, I can relate only too well to this story. My “nine doors down” was actually my NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR, a woman who had once been a man and was a friend and wo-worker of a friend. It would have been a perfect reason to start a conversation with her. Only saw her once or twice but only waved. One day last fall an ambulance pulled up and carried her away, I never saw her again. She died in the hospital several days later. Every time I see her empty house, I feel sad for the life that was lost and the chance that was lost to me to try to get to know her. I took her trash to the curb as an attempt to show caring, but it was too little too late.

  6. Thanks for sharing this again. i have said for 3 years now that I’d like to start a Sweet Monday gathering in my house. I always had a reason why not to do it now. But I know if I do, God will provide the how and enable me. We also have had only one neighborhood openhouse, and I do believe that is a wonderful way to reach out to your neighbors, to start a line of communication with them, so it is easier to connect and get to know them better later. Maybe time for another one!

  7. Thanks for sharing this Karen, it really steps on my toes.
    I am so guilty of this very thing. I let my busy life rule
    over those gentle nudges. I pray I will do better.

    Janet W.

  8. Beautiful and sad story. I don’t really know many of my neighbors either. May God give me the courage to reach out to them. Thanks for sharing and re-sharing this heartfelt story.

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