This morning I was frantically trying to get everything taken care of in preparation for leaving town later. I was on the phone with the insurance company, my sweet yardman was been here and Tucker is pawing at me to go out. In my distracted state, I assumed that the yard was done and let the dogs out and went back to my phone calls. I’m interrupted by a frantic Paxton asking where the dogs are. As luck would have it, he happened to see them escape out the opened gate. Let me introduce the bandits:
They are big, obnoxious, annoying, loud, barking, yet loveable mutts. I did not choose them, I didn’t really want them, I’m just the mom who says, “I’d be glad to do whatever I can to help!” The dogs and I have managed to develop a healthy love/hate relationship. But back to Friday, unbeknownst to me, my sweet yardman is cutting two lawns in my neighborhood at once, which is not his normal routine. I thought he was done, but he was across the street and still had to come back and blow the grass off, so when I let the dogs out, they discovered an open gate and ran for it! Strangely, Paxton thought he saw them run by his window and came to look for them. I run, jumped in the car and find them about four houses down peeing on a mailbox, call them, the jump in the car and head back to captivity. Upon my return home, there are several cars in front of my house a few neighbors on foot and one car pulled over yelling at my yard man for leaving the gate open and threatening to call the police. That is after a man walking his dog had already chewed him out. Another proceeds to call me to tell me that I need to instruct my yard man to keep that gate closed so I don’t get sued!
I have to admit, I don’t know my neighbors. Twenty years ago my next door neighbor didn’t like us and every time her kids saw my kids she called them inside because she wanted nothing to do with us. The kids proceeded to sneak behind her back and play through the wooden fence. But I now realize that I’ve been forever damaged by the rejection of that one person and never allowed myself to invest in neighbors, I just want to live here in peace and to do that I’ve decided the less we know about each other the better! Oh they all knew Russell, he worked in the yard and visited with everyone, but alas, he is dead! A lady came to my door some months ago complaining that I had a loose picket and they were afraid the dogs would get out so she offered to have her husband come screw the loose pickets in, that was thrown in my face today as well. I know my neighbors don’t like the dogs. I know they are loud and obnoxious. But they’re dogs! They don’t bark after 9:00 nor before 7:00. They have never attached or bitten anyone besides each other when attention, a treat or food was to be competed for. However, the outpouring of anger, rage, hysteria and downright pure hatefulness over their approximate five minute adventure dumfounds me!
Where do you go from here? I thought about writing an open letter of apology for the existence of the animals they evidently harbor so much resentment toward the beasts behind the fence and posting it in my front yard. I thought of hanging a “Beware of Dogs” sign to protect myself legally. My kids wanted to call the lady back and tell her if she ever called and upset me again, they’d call the police. But at the end of the day I just have to let it go! I understand fear, I understand being protective, I understand those things hide behind anger. I also understand overreaction and letting your anger unleash the demons within you. I don’t understand harsh words to my yard man that is just about the kindest, nicest person I have EVER met.
When I was growing up attending church youth group with a collection of young ne’er-do-wells I remember sitting around the campfire singing, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I understand that love to be a compassionate walking along side others, both known and unknown. That love cannot include spewing our wrath in the name of being “neighborly” or trying to prevent you “being sued”. So when I’m mad at my neighbor I must stop and think! Was anyone harmed? Do I know why this crazy lady has these obnoxious dogs? Have I ever attempted to speak to her when I wasn’t angry? Do we really need to threaten a worker with calling the police because a gate was left open? I think not.
I think also about my friend who at this very same time is burying her second husband in five years, and she’s only 40! I think about the people in my GriefShare class who have lost grandkids to suicide. I think about Simone Biles who has to deal with the wrath of America because she chose her own peace of mind over a gold medal. I think about how desperately our world needs understanding and compassion – not from ‘those people’ but from me and you, even in our own neighborhood.
The thing about it is ... Life is hard, but God is good! Every, single encounter we have with others matters! Every word we utter will either build up or tear down and no matter the words that have been uttered to us, we still have a choice to choose our words. I choose kindness, I hope you will too! I’m going away for the weekend after all to hear Jackie Hill Perry and spend some much needed time with friends. I hope my neighbors don’t riot, kill the dogs, the kids, nor feel compelled to waste some poor policeman’s time because a gate was left open!