Several years ago, we had a neighbor. She and I would sometimes swap childcare, or childcare stories. We would share the occasional cup of chai and tips on cooking, cleaning, or the latest educational kids’ program we found online.
She was in one of my dreams last week. It was as if no time at all had passed. In the dream, she had just returned from a trip overseas and was longing to return. Something in me, even in my subconscious state, understood that feeling, remembering a time when I had traveled overseas and back again and was filled with thoughts poignant and melancholy about the place I wanted to be, but that I could not call home. At least not then.
So I tried to tell her I understood how she felt.
Then a song started to play, Ships in the Night, by Matt Kearney, which I posted earlier this week. Although it was only a dream, the song played clearly. When I woke up, that song was running through my mind.
If some of my friends read my recent flash fiction piece in Splickety Love, “Last Chance,” they would have found something familiar. For some reason, I dream about various friends and acquaintances at some point in my life. At some point in theirs. I usually then write the person about my dream. Why?
From the time I was 13, I have recognized that when people appear in my dreams, it might be for a reason. Perhaps the reasons is nothing more than my subconscious mind rifling through its filing cabinet and pulling out a random memory, connecting it with a song or other random memory, and pushing it into another part of my brain as a dream.
Or perhaps it is something more.
I generally choose the latter. If God is mindful of all things, then He can bring a random friend into another’s dream at a time that person could use a little support in some way. A prayer, perhaps, or a note. A phone call or a link to a song. I’ve done all of the above at some point as a result of my dreams.
It doesn’t happen every day, not even every week or month, but when it does, I know that if I don’t get in touch with that person, something might be lost. I have no idea what. Perhaps it is only for my sake. But I hope not. I pray not.
In any case, this woman was my neighbor. Locationally speaking, she is no longer my neighbor. But I am reminded of Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on neighbors:
When Jesus said to love your neighbor, a lawyer who was present asked him to clarify what he meant by neighbor. He wanted a legal definition he could refer to in case the question of loving one ever happened to come up. He presumably wanted something on the order of: “A neighbor (hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part) is to be construed as meaning a person of Jewish descent whose legal residence is within a radius of no more than three statute miles from one’s own legal residence unless there is another person of Jewish descent (hereinafter to be referred to as the party of the second part) living closer to the party of the first part than one is oneself, in which case the party of the second part is to be construed as neighbor to the party of the first part and one is oneself relieved of all responsibility of any sort or kind whatsoever.”
Instead Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the point of which seems to be that your neighbor is to be construed as meaning anybody who needs you. The lawyers response is left unrecorded.
(- Frederick Buechner, from Wishful Thinking)
When Jesus spoke of neighbors, He didn’t refer to proximity. He referred to need. And who knows but that maybe a character in my dream, entering that realm of consciousness in some way, becomes my neighbor. Someone who could use a word of prayer or a letter, or even a kind thought.
Of forgiveness. Of love.
Of whatever it is that brings us all together in some inexplicable way that speaks of something deeper even than dreams and the fact that we remember them from time to time.