Here's on old preacher's story I ran across years ago. I'm not sure of the source. It is sad, but it makes a profound point.
In October 1993, in the town of Worcester, Massachusetts, police found the corpse of an old woman on her kitchen floor. This was no ordinary discovery--the woman had died approximately four years earlier. Police speculated that she died at age 73 of natural causes. That's when her bank transactions ended.
How can someone be so cut off from relationships that no one even notices when she dies?
To some extent, it was a mistake. According to the Associated Press, four years earlier, neighbors had called authorities when they sensed something might be wrong. When the police contacted the neighbor's brother, he said she had gone into a nursing home. Police told the postal service to stop delivering mail. One neighbor paid her grandson to cut the grass because the place was looking run down. Another neighbor had the utility company come and shut off the water when a pipe froze, broke, and sent water spilling out the door.
To a great extent, however, it was not a mistake.
One friend from the past said, "She didn't want anyone bothering her at all. I guess she got her wish, but it's awfully sad."
Her brother said the family hadn't been close since their mother died in 1979. He added, "Someone should have noticed something before now."
The woman had lived in her house in this middle-class neighborhood for 40 years, but none of her neighbors knew her. "My heart bleeds for her," said the woman who lives across the street, "but you can't blame a soul. If she saw you out there, she never said hello to you."
As this neighborhood shows, a spirit of community only results when all of us reach out to one another. Relationships take effort.