JUNITA GAMBRELL FLOYD: Selfless service to others in need illuminates part of our character

As a child growing up, I always heard my aunt, Leona Cobb, say, “There will be many people who will pass by your house that will never see the inside of your home. They won’t see the precious antique pieces, the rugs from Persia, or the Wedgewood china that is important to you. What they will see is your yard. Keep it mowed and trimmed.”
I have consistently adhered to her advice since becoming a homeowner.
Last year the unthinkable happened – my riding mower broke down. I didn’t have a trailer to take it to the repair shop. My neighbor, Rev. Charles Berry, graciously loaded the mower on his trailer and took it to the shop for me.
His intention was to pick up the mower once it was repaired; however, his truck broke down. Therefore, to my dismay, my yard was beginning to look like a wilderness. It had not been mowed for almost six weeks.
Before, I never had to deal with matters of this nature, but as a single parent, I am now totally responsible for the upkeep of my property. My nephew, Steven, always helped me by using his truck for errands and with the yard work.
However, this time, I couldn’t call him because he was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Needing my mower, I literally begged a man who had a truck and trailer in his yard to haul the mower home. He said, “No.”
I told him I’ll be glad to pay. He said, “No, I can’t do it.”
I explained my dilemma, he still said, “No.” I even told him he could use my nephew’s truck. Again, he said, “No.”
I could have called my brothers or brother-in-law who live 25 miles away to pick up the repaired mower; carry it two miles to my house and then drive 25 miles back. I chose not to.
I finally thought of another person who lived nearby, Policeman and Dare Officer Ikey Carmichael. I went to his house and asked him, “Is there any way I could get you to pick up my mower for me? I don’t have a trailer to haul it home. I can’t get anyone locally to help me, and I desperately need to mow my yard.”
He immediately said, “Of course, I will help you.”
He proceeded to hook up his trailer to his truck, went about 500 yards to the repair shop, picked up my mower, followed me home and dropped it off.
He said, “If I can help you again, please call me.”
Educator Marion Wright Edelman said, “Service is what life is all about.” I don’t know the gentleman’s circumstances as to why he would not help, and I certainly don’t judge him for not helping me. However, that incident caused me to think about my own life and my service to others.
I began to question and ponder within myself, “How do you define a neighbor? Am I too busy to offer assistance to someone in need? What have I done to help others? Have I passed by a person walking and not picked them up? Have I helped people only because we attend the same church, live in the same neighborhood, happen to be the same color, work together or just happen to know them? Who is my neighbor? Is it my responsibility and duty to help others?
Edelman further stated, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
I thought of a passage in the book of Matthew where Jesus was posed a series of questions: “Master, when did I clothe you? When were you a stranger and I took you in? When did I feed you? When did I visit you? When did I give thee a drink of water?
He answered by saying, “When you have done it unto the least one of my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
Rev. Berry and Lt. Carmichael, one black, one white, both followed the principle of service to others. Friends, have we been a good neighbor? Have we offered our services to help others in need?
You be the judge.

Community columnist Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president of finance/administration for CREATE Foundation, Inc. Contact her at juanita@createfoundation.com.

Juanita Gambrell Floyd