It’s easy to criticize someone for not living up to your personal standards, but it’s almost always better to step up to help them, instead.
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Kristene Whitehouse has lived in the same house in Billerica, Massachusetts for the past 17 years. She was born with multiple disabilities, including vision and hearing losses and several missing fingers, so she sometimes has a hard time maintaining her half-acre suburban yard.
Nevertheless, Kristene spent hours one Saturday in November raking and filling three sacks of leaves from the yard. It was just scratching the surface, but it was all she could manage that day. That’s why she was completely disheartened to open her mailbox to find an anonymous note addressed “To Home owner.”
Inside was a note that was as blunt as it was heartless.
“Clean up your yard leaves!! They blow all around,” read the handwritten note.
Kristene was so upset, she decided to vent about the note on a local Facebook group for Billerica residents.
“I debated whether I should post this or not,” Kristene began. “This is not the first such letter I’ve received over the years nor will it be the last.”
“Thank you to the Billerica Resident, most likely a neighbor, who felt called upon to leave me such an addressed envelope and note. I am disabled and on a fixed income. I cannot physically do all the yardwork and I cannot afford to hire anyone. I will not apologize. I deserve to live here as much as the next person. You make it so I don’t feel like trying to care about the yard anymore. Merry Christmas.”
That was all it took! When people in her community heard about the note, they were furious on Kristene’s behalf. The very next day, Cheryl Wesinger, who lives down the street, showed up unannounced with her rake and lawn mower. She managed to bag up about 10 bags of leaves before it got dark, but she vowed to return.
When a sick family member kept Cheryl away the next day, she reached out to her friend Mary Leach, the self-described “unofficial PR person for Billerica,” and asked for help. Mary runs a local group called Beautify Billerica, so she put out the call for volunteers.
The next weekend, Kristene could not believe her eyes when she looked outside. About a dozen adults and children armed with rakes, leaf blowers, and bags had taken over. It took about two hours for the group to clean up all of the fallen leaves and trim Kristene’s hedges.
When they were done, 79 bags were waiting for pickup on the curb!
Kristene was so pleased with the work her neighbors did, but she was even more moved by the gesture alone. She says she felt very supported by her community, which means a lot after being targeted by the nasty note.
“I’m so grateful and so humbled… just in awe,” Kristene said.
Now that’s how neighbors are supposed to act, are we right? Instead of picking on someone, why not offer to help them? It’s a lot kinder, and isn’t it how you’d like to be treated if the roles were reversed?
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