The firewood

“Check this out,” Husband said, nodding at his phone.

I focused on the screen, and he pressed play. And in a snippet of footage from our backyard security camera, three older teenagers—or adults—emerged from the rental property across the alley. They made a beeline for our place, filled their arms with firewood, darted looks both ways, and jogged back home, leaving a trail of scraps strewn behind them for us to clean up.

Husband’s mouth settled into a hard line. He had cut and stacked that wood a week or two earlier in preparation for family time around the fire, pizzas in the outdoor oven. But my memories wandered beyond the work of wood-splitting. I recalled our frequent efforts to collect those same neighbors’ pit bull puppies that roamed the alley day and night, because the broken fence with its makeshift gate couldn’t contain them. I had hoped those—and our other small, kind acts toward the new tenants—would amount to something over time.

Instead, we were no more than a source of firewood.

A dark cloud formed over me, a sure sign of a storm brewing over my perspective. But thefts were common in the neighborhood—and wood was a small thing—so I doused my thoughts.

“I watched a good video,” Husband said the next day. “Makes me think of the neighbors stealing our wood.”

In the video’s story, a guy named Matt drove to a gas station. A man approached him, asking for money to fill his tank. Matt agreed, but while he was inside settling the pump, the man was outside stealing his full gas cans. He confronted the guy, but God dropped an idea into his mind: not only could he pay for the stranger’s gas, Matt could give him his gas cans too. And that’s what he did.

“Wow,” I said.

“I’m going over there.” Husband’s gaze flitted to the house across the alley. “I’ll tell them, ‘I saw you come over and take our wood. In the future, instead of stealing from me, just ask.’”

Husband had always addressed injustice on our big-city block with his small-town honesty. And his tactics had worked. The neighbor who had chosen to keep Husband’s ratchet set decided to return it, the kid having fun with rocks and a slingshot near our house stopped his games, and the owner of the lonely dog freed the animal from its prison in the blistering sun.

I watched Husband leave through the back door. Good timing; the neighbors were home. How would the conversation go? Before crossing the alley, though, he paused by the gate and filled a nearby box with our firewood. He headed over and rapped on their door. No answer. A minute ticked by. Still no answer. Husband left the box on the neighbors’ back step.

I frowned at the unopened door, the unfair gesture, the unmerited gift. Love’s actions, ignored.

And it all looked familiar—and just like Someone else I knew.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.