Are we our brothers’ keepers?

I heard a sad story on the news tonight. A woman’s mummified body was found in the back seat of her car in the garage…6 years after she died! Her bills had been on automatic payment, and it was only after the money ran out and the warnings were ignored that the bank foreclosed and her body was found.

I’m sure there has to be more to the story yet to come out, but the thing I find the most sad is that it took 6 years for someone to realize that she was dead–and it wasn’t any family members or neighbors. It was a bank worker, making arrangements to have some repairs done to get the house ready for sale.

The news story says that she traveled a lot–apparently at times to Germany–and that she kept to herself. Neighbors didn’t worry about her absence because she would be home for a few days and then gone, and there were long stretches when no one saw her.

But 6 years?

How can we live so close to someone and not realize that something is wrong for 6 years? Have we become so used to taking care of just ourselves and our own families and not becoming involved that we can shrug it off when we don’t see someone by assuming that they’re on a business or personal trip?

There’s a very old African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village of caring people to make a community. That community might be a neighborhood…it might be a city…or a church. There are many types of community, and they’re not necessarily geographically close. But communities are made up of people who are aware of each other…who know each others’ needs…who check in when they haven’t seen someone for a while.

There are individuals who, for various reasons, may not feel part of a community…and perhaps this woman was one of them.

But that doesn’t mean that others have to ignore them. We can be community without being intrusive to each other.

No one should ever die alone and without being missed for 6 years. We can do better than that.

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