Since we got our dog, Chuy,  we have been getting to know our neighbors.  When you walk a dog (especially one as awesome as ours) neighbors come out of the woodwork.  People are just more apt to talk to a person walking a dog than walking alone.  People that walk alone are watched cautiously from windows, but walk a dog and somehow you have passed some kind of screening process.  I guess people that walk dogs are just more approachable.  Easy conversation.  Talk about the dog.

One neighbor I have gotten to know is Sam.  I had seen Sam working on his yard before and exchanged nods, but had never introduced myself.  One day while walking Chuy, Sam was sitting in his garage with the door open and he called me over.  Sam is about the easiest person in the world to talk to and he does not even need a dog. 

We covered all the typical first time conversation topics: weather, sports, my dog, his kids and grandkids, his retirement, my profession.  I have one of those professions that either kills the conversation or opens it up to very deep levels.  I am a minister.  Usually the initial response is something of a confession, “Well…I haven’t been to church in awhile.”  Which was how Sam responded, but he continued, “I am a Christian, though, and I read the Bible regularly.  We used to go to church all the time, but then we moved here and we just have not found a new one.” 

We chatted a little more on this subject.  He asked about my church and how I got into ministry.  I told him about the book that I had written and would be out soon.  It got us on the subject of prayer.  It looked like our conversation was coming to a close, but then he said, “Keep me in your prayers.  I’m having knee replacement surgery next Tuesday.”  I told him about my prayer resolution to not delay to pray.  He smiled and took my hand.  He has a strong, athletic hand.  I prayed. 

He ended up delaying his surgery.  He just didn’t feel good about it.  We chatted whenever I walked by with Chuy.  Eventually, he rescheduled his surgery.  The week before he called me over again.  He had a copy of my book and wanted me to sign it.  I joked that now it would be worth a penny more.  He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “No.  Now it’s priceless.”  I said it was sure nice to have such a neighbor.  He corrected me again, “Friend.” 

His surgery went fine. 

One evening, a couple of days after he came home from the hospital, my wife and I were walking with Chuy and for the first time our newborn son, Nelson.  He and his wife, Nancy,  came out to greet us on the sidewalk.  They were both all smiles. He said all the standard yet sincere things you say to new parents.  Then he said, “Paul, your book has inspired me.  Let me lead us in a prayer.”  He took my hand and we all, including Chuy, formed a circle around our beautiful, long hoped for child.  He prayed.  I felt like we were a family standing around a Thanksgiving Day table–a table prepared by God.

It was a full circle, a very full circle.