Last year our neighbor across the lane brought in a couple loads of silage for his cows to eat. Unfortunately, his makeshift shed/barn is just upwind from our front door and the pungent smell of rotting silage raced into our home faster than you can say “Gack!” I’m certain that it wasn’t intentional, but I’m just as certain it was awful.
A couple of years ago a neighbor who shares our lane started showing some signs of instability. Often angry, usually unsociable, and sometimes uncivil, it was difficult to avoid confrontation. Once, while backing out of my driveway, he came up behind me on our narrow lane and started honking. Unfortunately, I did not react well and a shouting match ensued. It hasn’t gone well since.
A couple of months ago we were all out walking on our lane. It’s about the only place we can walk together that isn’t too strenuous and is easily accessible. As we walked in front of our unstable neighbor’s house, he approached us and demanded we get off his property. He threatened to call the police and I calmly invited him to do that. As we walked away, he threatened to shoot us if we came on his property again. I lost it – another verbal altercation erupted. I will admit, I haven’t been that mad in quite awhile. I just don’t tolerate threats against my family very well.
This morning I awoke very early. So early you might even call it last night. I lay there listening – it’s how I pray. I usually do more listening than talking. I figure He has relevant things to say than I do; plus, He is God – and a lot smarter than me. As I lay there, thinking about my difficult neighbors and trying to conceive ways of dealing with them, I was struck with an emotion I’ve rarely experienced: compassion.
“my frustration continues…”
For as long as I’ve struggled with the neighbor who triggers anger in me, I’ve thought of, and threatened, ways to foil his territorial reign over our shared lane. I’ve thought about putting in speed bumps, a gate, or large rocks. I’ve thought about digging trenches, and I’ve hastily threatened to pour nails onto the gravel lane. All of these ideas are stupid and childish, prompted by anger and a powerless sense of frustration, and of course I’ve never acted on them. But my frustration continues.
Last year I mentioned to the neighbor across the lane that his silage was quite annoying. I was casual, kind, and accommodating. He apologized and promised to be more careful next (this) year. I’m thinking he forgot.
We don’t see each other often, and usually the only time I call is when his cows get out. I really don’t want to have this conversation on the phone, and would prefer to mention it casually, but the opportunities to do this are limited.
“I was struck with an emotion I’ve rarely experienced: compassion“
This morning, as I thought about these issues, and all of my neighbors, I was struck with a sense of understanding and compassion. The neighbor down the lane is most likely struggling with some really big issues – spiritual, emotional, marital, social, financial, or mental – I don’t know, and it’s none of my business. Whatever it is, as my Wonderful Wife often says, “Imagine being him? Imagine how hard it must be to live like that?”
She’s right. No matter how hard it is for us to be in the path of that much pain, it has to be much more difficult to live like that. Who am I to judge? Who am I to seek control over that man, or his issues? Yes, I want full use of my lane, but at what cost? Indeed, I believe there should be consequences to poor behavior, and one needs to have good boundaries to protect their rights. But from my history with this man, there is no winning here. The best I can do is to accept something/someone I cannot change, express compassion and love, and accept that God has this under control.
The same with my cow-keeping neighbor across the lane. When I was checking the status of our foreclosure, I happened to see that our neighbor is under that same guillotine. Sometimes we forget what pressures others must face. It’s easy to be self-centered and wallow in our own pain and stress. And yet, all around us, people are going through similar situations.
Yes, the foul-smelling silage is a bit much, and I may remind him of his promise before he brings in another load, but today I have more compassion for he, and his family’s situation.
In fact, I prayed for all of my neighbors today. We’ve lived her just short of five years, we know our neighbors. I’m sad I haven’t been more understanding or compassionate before this – but I’m glad my God brought me to this point today.