On Christmas Day, as we sat in our living room and opened presents with immediate and extended family, one of our daughters called out to my husband from the garage. Initially, she sounded calm; when she repeated herself we could tell it was urgent. She’d slipped out to get something and discovered water pouring from the ceiling, running under my car, and then flowing outside beneath the garage door.
After days of sustained sub-freezing temperatures, our pipes burst. Everyone jumped into action, trying to control and evaluate the damage. Our home’s previous owner had expanded the master closet, extending it into the garage on the other side of the wall. When I answered a call for help from that direction, I found two of my sons moving hangers of my clothes from one side of the room to the other as water spilled in around one of the recessed lights. I’m thankful for their quick thinking: I had forgotten it was originally part of the garage. I returned with a bucket and towels and they controlled the chaos in that area.
My husband turned off our water from the shut-off valve at the street and then hurried to sweep the pooled water from the garage so it wouldn’t freeze there; an icy trail snaked down our driveway for a couple of days. Next, he cut into the garage ceiling and found the problem pipe. Neighbors, who arrived when they saw what was happening, told us how they once helped a past owner of our home fix a similar issue.
Fourteen of us were home when our pipes burst. We forgot about opening Christmas presents and did what needed to be done at the time. Later when I drove a carload over to use the bathroom at the neighborhood pool, we found water pouring out below the water fountain between the men’s and the women’s restrooms. I reported it on the neighborhood Facebook group and someone turned off the water. As my niece pointed out, I had effectively cut off access to our only bathrooms.
Thankfully for us, that’s when our neighbors stepped in. One offered access to clean water from a spigot at the street in front of their house and the use of a full bathroom in their basement, which we could enter day or night without disturbing them. When we had a laundry emergency, they ran a load for us and delivered it clean and dry to our door. They invited us over for supper if our pipes couldn’t be fixed by the next night.
Another neighbor texted a plumber recommendation but told us not to expect a quick answer — he’d already received 170 calls. My husband is an accomplished DIYer and hoped he could repair it himself, but couldn’t get parts until the following day since Christmas was the one day of the year when stores were closed.
The next day my husband bought copper pipe, a soldering gun, and other supplies. Every time we thought the pipe was fixed, he turned on the water and it started leaking again. That’s when another neighbor came to our rescue. Because he owns a construction company, he had expensive equipment capable of sealing not only the first pipe but also the other two that burst when the water was turned on again.
Hoping your neighbors know they can count on you and actually telling them are two different things. I would never have asked if we could shower at our neighbor’s house, but we took them up on their offer. Their kindness gave us access to fresh water so we could brush our teeth, use our toilets, and refill our electric kettle.
The Christmas pipe-bursting ordeal is behind us, but I’m still reveling in the gift of neighbors who love well. We have a good supply of firewood because our next-door neighbor is clearing a section of his yard. He and his wife don’t need firewood because they use gas logs, but he cuts them neatly and passes them on to us. Some ladies on our street have a text chat and reach out for help in cooking emergencies; we exchange canned goods and onions in our cul-de-sac. People post pantry challenges in the neighborhood Facebook group if they need a missing ingredient in a pinch, or pass along household items they no longer use. And I’ve built friendships within a mile of my home thanks to book club and Bible study groups.
We’ve only lived here for two years. This isn’t the first time we’ve had good neighbors, but we’ve never been part of a community that’s more connected. Investing in relationships with the people around you isn’t just neighborly, it’s biblical. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27 KJV).
Choosing to do what’s best for ourselves isn’t hard. It’s easy to look out for number one, right? But when we look out for the best interests of those around us — our neighbors — we fulfill Christ’s intention for how to live in community.