By Patti Deakin
Gerry and I have lived in Allendale for three years. One of the first neighbors we met was Miss Eula. She is 82 years old, lives alone and doesn’t get a lot of visitors. At first she was reclusive and full of fear, and a lot of times she wouldn’t even open the door to us. We would knock and say, “We’re the People of Praise,” and there would be no response. After a while we would go away.
She believed people were breaking into her house. She didn’t want to leave, because if she left they would break in. She had three deadbolts on her front door. She called the police so many times about the break-ins that they recognized her and stopped responding. She walks with a cane and has a very bad knee. If there ever was a fire in her house, she wouldn’t be able to get out in time.
After we met Miss Eula, I began calling her to ask if she needed anything from the grocery store, since I was going to go anyway. She kept saying, “No. Thank you very much.” After four or five months of asking her, she began to let me get her a few items. Then I began asking if she wanted to ride along with me and pick out her own items at the store. She turned me down repeatedly.
Change was very gradual, and I kept visiting. One day, she talked about her fears of break-ins and about the lack of help from the police. I can’t imagine being a person who lives in fear all day long, every day—how that would wear on you.
On my next visit, after praying about what she had shared with me, I talked to her about what we might be able to do to fix the problem. If the police weren’t going to help her, maybe there was something we could do to make a difference in her life.
I told her, your house looks abandoned from the outside so people probably think that no one lives there. How about if we put in a dusk-to-dawn sensor light on your carport, so that if anyone is coming in from that side, you would be able to see them? Maybe we could put a light bulb in the front porch light. Maybe we could remove the debris and the brick pile from in front of the front door, so the door could be seen from the street. Maybe we could paint the porch furniture so it would look like people were caring for the house. I told her that there were brothers and sisters living on Yale who would like to help her.
After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, she agreed to the plan.
It was a team effort. I went to Lowe’s and got prices on spray paint for the porch furniture, along with a list of the colors that were available in satin and gloss. I showed her the list. She chose the color and I bought the paint. Laura Brummer installed the sensor light in her carport—it was a leftover light from an Action project. Some Action team members sanded the metal chairs on her porch, and Gerry spray-painted them. They’re bright red. I really think they shine in the dark, and the house looks lived in.
She still speaks of her fear occasionally, but it is no longer debilitating for her. I continue to take her shopping. I take her to the bank and we run errands together. Sometimes, we even see her sitting on the porch with her neighbors in her newly painted chairs. God is giving her a new life.