Monday, September 21, 2015

Meeting Up With Joe in a Chance Encounter with a Neighbor

In an unexpected encounter with Joe I learned about my house and what it means to have a neighbor.

Today while my wife Jennifer and I were walking our dog Hennessy, we came across Joe. We didn’t know his name; we hadn’t truly met. But there he was working on his home front yard as we took our walk up Massachusetts from Madera.

I made a quick comment about the vision he had for his front yard; he remarked a lighthearted ”what vision?” And so began a connection for a mere five minutes which included the history of our own house. Our own house. It was quite an intriguing five minutes.

You see, Joe has lived in Lemon Grove for decades, raised right there in the home on Massachusetts. When he commented that he could remember Lemon Grove history back as far as the year of my birth, I really got a glimpse of how much history this man has had with our fine town.

He talked about Berry Street, the street of our house. How the street ended not far passed where our home resides. How a Japanese man owned a farm beyond that marker. How the oldest eucalyptus tree used to grow right there on our driveway - with “a trunk as wide from me to you” - before the city had to take it out because it was causing problems with the street. How my house, back in the 1960s, was a dump for so long, before the previous owners added on a sunken garden in the front and a home in the back. How he once stopped by to tell me the dome light on my car was on. How he likes to look at Jupiter and the moon with his telescope from Berry Street Park at the right times of day. And how he, on this day, recognized us because of Hennessy, our famous Akita mix dog.

The feeling of warmth and recognition lasted for some time.

What I walked away with was a knowing of a need for community, neighbors who know your name, know your dog’s name, and can stop by to let you know your dome light has been left on. I walked away with the longing to know our brothers and sisters who live to the north, south, east and west of us. In this great community town. To be in communion. Since at the end of the day, connections are what truly count.

Especially those unexpected connections that can be made on, say, a simple dog walk up Massachusetts from Madera.

Jim Ellis is a writer and producer living in Lemon Grove. He can be reached on dog walks with Jennifer and Hennessy and at

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