Over our steaming bowls of oatmeal, my husband and I frequently participate in a hobby called Frank Watching. The odd and elusive Frank dwells in a squat brick home beside our own. Every day Frank wears a tight white tank, a pair of loose blue trousers that are held aloft by a pair of suspenders. On cooler days, he dons a red flannel jacket and covers his balding white head with an Irish driving cap. His outfit is completed by a four-pronged cane, which he uses as an accessory more than a walking aide.
On mornings after a storm, Frank can be observed gathering fallen branches in his lawn. Once, he placed the sticks and twigs into his trash can. His brother informed him that the trash can was not the ideal place to deposit yard waste and instructed him to place the sticks in the yard behind our home. A week later, my husband watched as Frank dropped a plastic bag of sticks into the woods, just as he was told.
There are other oddities about Frank. One day, he snagged every trash can in the neighborhood and tossed them in the woods behind his house. According to the septic repairman, he flushes shopping bags down the toilet. We have watched him clean his glass windows with WD40.
Yet there is something truly sad about Frank. Last year as my husband trimmed our hedge he heard a clink that heralded the approach of Frank and his cane. Frank mumbled to my husband who struggled to understand him. Finally he caught the words, “I want you to help me with something.” My husband willingly followed him until he reached his front door. Pausing, he inquired as to what Frank needed help with. “I need you to make my bed.” What? “I always mess it up when I make it.” My husband had no desire to make someone else’s bed when we do not always straighten our own, and he refused.
A few days later, Frank came over to apologize. He had been living with his 80-year-old mother until two weeks prior to his strange request. His mother had made his bed, cooked his meals and cared for him until she passed away. His brother currently mows his lawn and brings him meals.
Frank clearly has some mental and physical ailments that I do not comprehend. Here’s something else I can’t comprehend: Jesus says to love our neighbors, including Frank.
Frank is nuts.
Love your neighbor.
I can’t understand a word he says.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
I don’t want to deal with his issues.
Love your neighbor.
I don’t know how to love Frank. What if he misunderstands my intentions? What can I do for him? Should pray about it for awhile – a very long while – first?
I have answers for some of these questions, but I don’t like those answers. Interacting with Frank is thoroughly uncomfortable, but I guess Jesus found that loving us was more than uncomfortable.
I suppose I could make Frank a meal — or at least leave a loaf of bread by his door. I’ll do it this week. If I wait, I may never dare to do it.