The Friendly Neighbors have been incredibly helpful to us in many ways. When we first started scoping out the lot we eventually bought, we found them living on lot #1 in a trailer. They had just retired and were having their well dug, but had not yet built their house. When their well came up with good water, that gave us confidence that our $10,000 investment in putting in a well would not be a dry hole fiasco. (This can happen; it happened to one of Mrs. Random’s nephews in the high desert of California; now his marriage is over as well; having become another dry hole, so to speak.)

The Friendly Neighbors are serious Christians and are frequently inviting us to participate in activities at their church. My wife and I became atheists before we were married; in fact, I don’t remember ever not being an atheist. (My wife, raised as a desultory Christian Scientist, swore off the stuff a few years before she met me.) We are not likely to become religious believers, but just as some dogs and cats live together in harmony; we don’t regard Christians and atheists as inevitable foes.

While it’s clear the friendly neighbors hope we will find their church so inviting and rewarding that we will be drawn in, they approach the matter with a light-handed manner that does not offend or irritate us. We take each invitation on its own merits, and are quite willing to participate in an activity that interests us or we find worthwhile.

For example, some of the men in the congregation chain-saw and split some logs every Wednesday morning and then deliver it to elderly people and people in financial distress. They call it their “wood ministry.” I recently started participating with the group and help out with the activity every Wednesday morning. At 65, I am the babe of the group; all the other men are serious Christians in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Despite their age, all the men are quite dynamic and active, and chuck enough wood in a few hours to make a woodchuck scurry back into its burrow in shame. After a few hours of work we gather at the church where the church ladies provide us with coffee and cookies and we chat in an amiable session of elderly male bonding.

(Next: the surprise wedding.)