My friend Ellen is the quintessential good neighbor. Whatever happens (and as you’ve heard, a lot has been happening around here lately) she shows up at the back door with a plate of cookies, a soul-warming chicken potpie, or sometimes a whole meal-from mashed potatoes to meatloaf.

Now just in case you’re thinking that she’s a Martha clone who spends her life in the kitchen, STOP. She’s juggling all the balls and multi-tasking just like the rest of us. Husband and kids, aging parents, a full-time job, and half a dozen volunteer commitments. But yet, she is never too busy to stop by with just the tasty treat that will feed your body and comfort your soul. “Because that’s just what neighbors do!”

Today, I got a chance to return the favor.  When I heard that a tricky knee on her hockey-playing husband kept her at the OR all day, I took a page from her playbook, um… cookbook.  I rushed home from the office, put a big pot of vegetable soup on the stove, mixed up some buttermilk cornbread muffins, and grabbed a pound cake out of the freezer.

I was smiling all the while because it was my turn to be a good neighbor. Over the last long year, Ellen and so many of my friends  (you know who you are!) have reminded me what my mother always knew. Being a ‘good neighbor’ is more than a casual wave as you pass each other on the street. It’s more than saying ‘we need to get together’ but never quite finding time. Being a good neighbor is being a good friend. It’s about doing unto others. It’s about sharing the care and the love. It’s a hands-on activity.

Sometimes it’s a chicken potpie. It can be a few simple spring flowers tied with a ribbon. It’s even shown up as a much-needed trip to the nail salon while recovering from a hospital stay.

But tonight…love is a steaming hot bowl of homemade vegetable soup from one neighbor to another.