Four and a half years ago a sign went up in the yard next to us. We were going to get new neighbors. I had no idea who God was going to bring into my life, but I determined to start praying and tell Him who I thought would be perfect. I prayed that a nice family with boys would move in next to us. God answered that prayer in more ways than I could ever imagine.
I remember the day that Paula came to look at the house with her realtor. I threw shoes on my feet and decided to take my boys for a walk so that I would have an excuse to see who was possibly going to be my new neighbor. I have to admit that I am a nosey neighbor! When I learned who was to move in next door, I felt that we had hit the jackpot. This family had two boys almost the exact ages of mine!
Paula and her family began to attend our church and I had so much fun sucking her into all sorts of things. I had started a chime choir and needed one more person. Not knowing what she was in for, Paula volunteered to help. I put her at the bass end where she only had to hit on the beat here and there. She practiced her part and played in front of an audience even though she knew almost nothing about music. That was just the type of person she was; willing to chip in wherever there was a need. I roped her into helping with Vacation Bible School and then it was AWANA, the nursery, and just about anywhere else there was a need. She just didn’t know how to say no.
When her boys started school, Paula became even busier. She threw herself into the school community. Working in the classroom, running the snack bar, counting box tops, passing out cookie dough, were just a few ways that Paula helped at Nelson Elementary. Hours were spent at the teacher’s center laminating children’s work for various teachers. She was at the school probably as much as the teachers. I always joked with her that she spent more time doing school than I did home schooling my own children. She just didn’t know how to say no.
When the school bell rang her day did not end. Homework needed to be done and sport practices needed to be attended. Paula would do anything for her kids. She sat with them and helped them through those horrible math assignments and dreaded writing assignments. Being an involved parent, she knew what needed to be done and how to keep her kids on track. Once those assignments were complete, they headed off to their many different sports. My head would spin just thinking about their schedule. Some Saturdays they would have 4 different games at different schools and she would do her very best to be at every single game. Paula even went to the games of other kids! After all the activities were over, the neighborhood kids would hang around the house. Paula would feed them, entertain them and look out for them. She just didn’t know how to say no.
The years that Paula spent in Fresno were years of giving to others. Paula become well known around the neighborhood and school for her caramel corn, banana bread, strawberry freezer jam and those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss. Even though she wasn’t feeling well at Christmas time, she baked those treats for everyone else. Just last week in the hospital, she mentioned that she wished she could get home and bake some banana bread for all the nurses who had been helping her out. She just didn’t know how to say no.
Now, Paula wasn’t perfect. She did have a few quirks. Paula was obsessed with recycling. Soda cans, water bottles, milk jugs, you name it and she recycled it. When we would ride our bikes to the gym, she would stop and pick up bottles off the street. Eventually, huge bags would be taken down to the recycling center and cashed in. I never did understand that obsession. Another quirk had to do with the gas and electric bill. I do admit that I was part of this obsession. Every month we would compare bills to see who had the lowest. It became a friendly competition that went on for years.
As time moved forward, Paula’s and my relationship deepened. She became more than a neighbor. She was a friend I could call at any time. Paula was there when I needed a cup of sugar, a listening ear or a hug. She would take care of my boys, my dog, or my house at a moments notice. I could walk into her house without knocking, kick off my shoes and make myself at home on her couch. Paula always had time for those around her. While I tried to teach Paula how to say no more often, Paula taught me to say yes. Because of her constant giving of her self, she made many friends who will miss her every day. I praise God for sending me a neighbor who never knew how to say no.