The plaque at the skate park, with my neighbor’s name.
One never knows what to expect when a new neighbor moves in. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a gated community…or subsidized housing, where I’ve lived for twenty years. I’ve seen my share of drama in the small courtyard enclosed by low-income residents. Some people lack gratitude and respect for the privilege of having an affordable apartment, and for others living in close proximity…they may destroy the property, and neighbors’ peace, by engaging in criminal activity and violence. So, when someone quiet and courteous arrives, I breathe a relieved sigh.
My neighbor, Colton, is surely an angel sent special delivery…God’s response to prayers I despaired He’d ever answer. Colton’s an unusual young man in many ways. For two decades, I’ve baked brownies to welcome each new resident—but Colton wouldn’t receive them. It felt like a personal rejection, but he didn’t intend it that way—he takes his time getting to know someone…I appreciate that now. I wish I’d been like him, in the past; wiser, more cautious, not so quick to give my trust before it’s earned.
Colton’s young enough to be my grandson…I’m actually older than his grandmother. He speaks of her as being “very special”. I suspect he’s learned much from her, as well as from his lovely mom—like the importance of being considerate, without expecting something in return. We’ve been neighbors for just over a year now, becoming more comfortable as time passes. Since Colton won’t accept money, I “trade” my cooking for favors when I need them. He loves my homemade mac and cheese…and desserts.
Last year I fell, breaking my arm…it was scary because, although I’ve learned to be independent, I have no one for emergencies. Colton assured me I could call him if I needed help…he even carried my garbage downstairs until I’d healed sufficiently to do it. Sometimes he drives me to the grocery store—I try not to ask often.
Recently, when my computer chair broke beyond repair, I mentioned that Walmart advertised a fabulous deal…he eagerly suggested we go. There were no computer chairs available—but, spying the vacuum cleaners, I wanted a closer look. When Colton showed me the model he’d purchased, I knew it must be a winner…he keeps his place extremely tidy. When we got home I ordered a computer chair from Amazon, and asked him if he might assemble it for me. Of course he would…it’s nice, having a handy guy downstairs!
Colton doesn’t operate strictly on the barter system. Some days he surprises me with his thoughtfulness and generosity…he’ll show up at my door with fruit, or other foods. One day he brought 2 giant packs of the bottled water I like…I was wowed! I offered to reimburse him with cash…but quietly refusing, he said, “I was thinking about you, and you don’t need to be carrying heavy things.” Who’s like that anymore?? He has old-fashioned values, heroic.
He doesn’t play loud music, mostly watches movies…and isn’t much for conversation (could be he can’t get a word in, when I’m jabbering nervously). But yesterday, he wanted to show me some pictures on his phone…I was delighted to learn new things about him, which I’m sharing here.
When he was in school, he took a first aid class through the local fire department. Now, on days when my injured arm is throbbing, he wraps it for me expertly.
Here’s the best part: one of his passions, when he was younger, was skateboarding. There wasn’t a place near his home for kids to skateboard, so Colton did the necessary research which led to him being instrumental in getting a skate park constructed on the site of an old airport, no longer in operation. In the photo above, you can see the dedication plaque with his name on it. So, at an early age, he’d already left a legacy reflecting his desire that other youths have a safe place to pursue the sport he loved.
I don’t know what other dreams swirl in Colton’s mind and heart, but I’m confident he can do anything he wants to do…because he’s resourceful, and possesses a remarkably unselfish focus. Unlike people who are “all about me”, Colton dreams for those who cannot, perhaps. And he lacks the judgmental attitudes of many…he views people with kind, compassionate eyes. In this, I confess he’s more saintly than I.
When I met his mom, I raved about him…mothers are happy to hear they’ve raised kids to be admirable adults. The two of them spoiled me with gifts last Christmas. And even though they know I love to cook, she sends me heaping plates from their holiday dinners…what a treat, to enjoy someone else’s cooking!
I’ve boasted about him to the apartment managers, too, telling them Colton’s a superior tenant. They can see it’s true: his apartment looks like a showplace, and he takes excellent care of his two dogs…he’s trained them to be as well-mannered as himself.
Everyday, I thank God for Colton; for who he is—a man of character, modern-day knight—not just for helpful things he does. He’s well worth the 20-years’ prayer.
The Martha Lake (Airport) Skate Park
©Leyda Bien, 2019 ~ All rights reserved.
Images: Colton Heaverly & Google.com