You Do What You Can by
(135 Stories)

Prompted By Favors

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Jane was our neighbor across the hall when we lived in Quincy, MA. She was friendly and outgoing, single, with a cocker spaniel. We would care for her dog when she was away. One afternoon she called us.  She had been taken to the ER after attempting suicide, and would be in the hospital for some days. Could we take care of her dog until she got out?

She had been taken to the ER after attempting suicide, and would be in there for some days. Would we take care of her dog?

We had no key, but using a ladder, I was able to climb in a window of her first floor apartment. Luckily she had a spare key inside for subsequent entry. Her dog liked me and did not object to my intrusion.

As soon as I entered I was struck by the smell. The apartment was a mess, with clothing and other detritus strewn about in every room. This was unlike Jane. But the smell was coming from the kitchen.

Nearly every dish she owned had been used and left where it was. The sink and surrounding countertops were piled high with dirty plates, cups and glasses. The kitchen table, side tables, coffee table, all bore a dish or two or more. It seems that as her depression deepened over the preceding days, she had been unable to manage any daily functions beyond dog care and eating.

Luckily she had left the air conditioning on.

I let Gina into the apartment and we surveyed the sad scene. I walked the dog, which amazingly had not added to the mess or smell. When I returned, we agreed that it would be bad for Jane to return home to her place in that condition. Also, we had to go in there ourselves to care for her pup. We went to work.

We washed all her dishes, cleaned the floors, did several loads of laundry and put things away as best we could. If we didn’t know where something went, we guessed. It took us until well into that night, but when she finally came home the following week, she didn’t have to face that particular reminder of how far into madness she had descended.

Jane never spoke about what had happened to her, and we didn’t ask. We moved to Chicago a few months later and did not keep in touch.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: Favors, mitzvah, suicide, depression
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Thanx Dave for your very moving story of how unasked, you helped a neighbor in crisis.

    Altho Jane never spoke about what you and Gina did for her, I’m sure your kindness was much appreciated.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    That was a great act of kindness you and Gina performed (beyond caring for her dog – cocker spaniels being my favorite breed since I was just a little kid, since I had the sweetest one next door). Jane may not have even remembered what a state she had left her apartment in, but your good deed was its own reward.

    You’ve reminded me of something similar that our neighbor did for us the day of my husband’s terrible accident on MV 2 1/2 years ago (I wrote about it in my story at the time; she came into our house throughout the day, cleaned up all the blood from the bathroom and washed all the towels and rugs that he had bled on, which was such a blessing! I was not looking forward to tackling all that after seeing Dan off on a Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter at about 4pm, headed to Mass General, knowing that I had to pack up and leave the island the next day for who knew how long)!

  3. You stepped up and acted like a pair of angels – see angels do appear, they do exist. Thanks for reminding me of that true and necessary fact.

  4. Dave, that was truly an wonderful act of neighborliness, and you provided all the sensory details to make it come alive.
    After prostate surgery in May 2007 and a few days of recovery, I was stunned to come back to our home in western Mass., (the surgery was in Bethesda, MD) and find our grass freshly cut. At some point a guy we knew from down the street (not someone I would call a friend) let us know that he had taken care of it. He wasn’t looking for appreciation, just didn’t want us to be mystified. He happened to have seen me in a Thai restaurant picking up food the day before I left town; he was also there doing the same, and when he asked, “how’s it going?” I told him of my cancer diagnosis and my upcoming surgery. Sometimes it pays not to automatically say, “oh, fine.”

  5. Jim Willis says:

    Dave, the favor you and Gina did for Jane is one you can always look back on and get a warm feeling about yourselves. For me, it’s times like that which tend to balance out some of the other times when I should have been kinder and more sensitive to someone’s needs. You and Gina provided something for Jane to smile about and to know someone cared enough for her to give her a clean home to come back to.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    The picture was perfect. Good on you and Gina for helping out your neighbor, and going the extra mile to clean up the mess. I’m sure she appreciated it and it made her healing easier. Not to mention the dog. May we all have good neighbors like you.

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