That was the nickname some of my kids' friends gave my next door neighbour when we first moved in. They gave it to him because he was old. He was old when we moved in; he's older now. I don't think he was ever in the war. He was a plumber by trade, and from what I understand, he has lived in the house next to me for 50 years now. He remembers when the neighbourhood behind us was farm land. He's 87 years old, and he walks his dog, Pockets, twice a day. He's terribly hard of hearing, and when I told him my dog's name was "Luna," he never actually got it. He calls her "Noona." Fine with me.
He still drives, and he's not like other seniors. You're not really aware of it because he's a good driver. He's a very healthy, strong man. Every summer, he mows his lawn with regularity, and fusses about the flower beds. Once, this past fall, I saw him climbing up on a ladder to clean out the gutters of his house. I was afraid he would fall, but I think he was steadier on it than I would be. Last summer, he painted the awnings on his house. It took him a few days. We paid a student who took about two weeks to do ours. Every year for the past six years, when fall comes, the sound of his leaf blower fills my mornings. He's at it every day. He blows them into a big circle, mows them with his mulcher and bags them up. The only sign that he's slowing down was this year when he had a lawn chair at the side of the yard, and took a break while his wife chatted to him through the window. He's amazingly healthy for a man of his age.
This morning, as the snow came down, I decided to help my husband out by getting a start on shovelling the upper portion of our driveway. It's where we park our vehicles, and it gets full there quickly. It was a beautiful morning, and I wanted to get some exercise anyway. Nothing escapes The Veteran. He was at his side window, peeking out as I shovelled. I was aware of him watching. After about an hour, I went inside, happy to serve my husband this way, by making his load less when he arrives home tonight.
Around 1:00, I was at my desk doing some bible study when I heard a snowblower. It seemed fairly close to the house, and I was curious about it. I wondered if my across the street neighbour was blowing out his next door neighbour's driveway. She's a single woman, and he occasionally does that for her. Well, it wasn't my across the street neighbour. It was The Veteran, and he was going up and down my driveway, in his blue coveralls, his knitted grey watch cap, and his glasses and face speckled with snow. In about fifteen minutes, he'd done the whole thing.
He's helped out like that before. A few years ago, when our son was shovelling, he wandered over with his blower and told my son to finish up using that. However, last fall, when my husband decided to surreptitiously rake his leaves for him, he came bounding out of the house, commanding my husband not to do such a thing. Nope; nothing escapes The Veteran.
Men of this generation know what it means to be a good neighbour. Having lived in a society where a Judeo-Christian ethic was more tolerable, even if they weren't brought up in a Christian home, they were taught good values. The Veteran is always one of the first people out in the neighbourhood when my unruly dog finds her way out of the yard and takes off. We also help him when his renegade beast takes off.
In a world where a ethic of being a neighbour is less and less taught, people like The Veteran are a dying breed. For those us of who know Christ, we understand that being a good neighbour is about loving our neighbor, and therefore, it is always in style. As the Christian influence in society becomes more and more silenced, people like The Veteran will really stand out.
One of the most profound ways we can minister the love of Christ is to be like The Veteran. I don't think he's a churchgoer. I've never seen him out on a Sunday doing that. But he does know about being a good neighbour. His actions gave me a boot in the rear today. I need to be a better neighbour. There will be a day when he is not able to blow out my driveway. I hope we can do it for him. In the meantime, I have a warm loaf of banana bread to take over there as a thank you. I hope it ministers to him the way he did to me today.