A community came together after this woman shared her experience.

We never truly know what someone else is going through, which is why it’s important to lead with kindness. That’s especially relevant when you’re upset about a situation and holding someone to your own personal standard. Rather than judge or make someone feel bad, sometimes it’s better to ask questions and find ways to help.

An Angry Neighbor

handwritten note

An anonymous neighbor in Billerica, Massachusetts was less than thrilled with the way Kristene Whitehouse was upkeeping her yard last fall. Even though the woman was trying her best to keep the leaves on her half-acre property in check, it was hard.

You see, Whitehouse has numerous disabilities, including several missing fingers. She’s also on a fixed income, which makes hiring someone impossible. Still, she did her best and had spent hours one particular Saturday filling three sacks with leaves.

It didn’t make much of a dent, and apparently, one neighbor was upset about that because Whitehouse received a note in her mailbox shortly afterward.

“Clean up your yard leaves!! They blow all around,” the note read.

Standing Up for Herself

Whitehouse was devastated, but she decided to turn the moment into an educational one. So she went on social media and shared a post explaining her situation.

“I debated whether I should post this or not,” she wrote on a Billerica Facebook group page. “This is not the first such letter I’ve received over the years nor will it be the last.”

The woman explained her disability and fixed income and reasoned the note was uncalled for. After all, she was doing her best.

“I cannot physically do all the yard work, and I cannot afford to hire anyone,” she continued. “I will not apologize. I deserve to live here as much as the next person. You make it so I don’t feel like trying to care about the yard anymore. Merry Christmas.”

A Community Responds

A woman named Cheryl Wesinger, who lives down the street from Whitehouse, decided she wanted to do something about the situation. The Facebook post had upset her, and she didn’t want her neighbor to feel alone.

“I didn’t even tell Kris,” she recalled to NBC News. “I just went over, and I did her whole side of her yard with my lawnmower and bagged up all the leaves as much as I could before it got dark.”

Wesinger planned to return the next day, but when a family situation kept her at home, she called upon her friend Mary Leach, who heads up the local Beautify Billerica group. Leach asked the community for volunteers.

“People in the neighborhood know her,” neighbor Jillian Freitas also told NBC News.
“They know that she has disabilities, and to go and do that is really low, especially at this time of the year.”

By the following weekend, about a dozen volunteers had come together to collect nearly 80 bags of yard waste from Whitehouse’s property. They also trimmed her hedges and, most importantly, showed the woman that she was respected and valued.

“I’m so grateful and so humbled … just in awe,” she said.

Creating Community

While this story certainly reminds us of the importance of compassion and kindness, it also reminds us just how powerful a community can be when it comes together to support and uplift.

Helping others and lending a hand to a greater cause is something all of us can do within our own communities, whether it’s helping a neighbor during a difficult period or watching out for one another’s children.

Knowing that no one is perfect and everyone needs help once in a while is a great motivator to pitch in when we can. And even more importantly, this story reminds us that when we do see someone struggling, helping rather than judging can go a really long way.