February 1, 2017

Before moving into our RV…

I was clipping yellow roses for my vase when the taxi pulled up to the curb next door. The door swung open and a man stumbled out. He plunged one hand into his pocket as the other rested on the roof of the cab in a effort to keep himself upright. He tossed a few bills through the passenger window and turned towards his front door. He was so unsteady on his feet, that this simple movement almost brought him to his knees. He stumbled up the path to the front door and fumbled with the key in the lock. I felt sorry for him and for a brief moment, I almost offered my assistance. Then I remembered that he had not spoken to me since he moved in 10 years earlier, and it wasn’t from lack of me trying either.

Everytime I saw him I yelled “hello neighbor”, and waved while trying to make eye contact. He completely ignored me and went out of his way to avoid me. It  was obvious that he did not want to get to know me or anyone else for that matter. His girlfriend lived with him and she was just as private and anti-social as he was.

It became my own personal challenge to win them over.

One day he came over when I was not home. My daughter-in-law was there babysitting two of her nieces and my son’s dog. My neighbor was irritated and accused the dog of barking all day when he was trying to sleep.  He worked nights and slept days. It turned out to be the dog of the neighbor behind us. He didn’t apologize, he just left.

The next day while leaving for work, I waved and said “hello” when I saw them. They still did not respond.

Both he and his girlfriend drank too much and argued one evening. Police were there with guns drawn when we came home. They yelled at us to get inside.

The next day I again waved and smiled when I saw them. They still did not respond.

Another time, I found his girlfriend sitting in the drivers seat of her locked car. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Apparently they both had been drinking and things had gone from bad to worse. I asked if she would like to come in our house and let things cool off a bit. She refused, so I just stood and talked with her a while. They was no scolding, and no judgment, no prying questions, just a calming, compassionate conversation.

My granddaughters and I made them some cookies and they hand delivered them. I finally built up enough nerve to go over, knock on the door and invite her to a women’s tea at our church, no pressure just a simple invite. She polightly declined but her eyes were warm as they met mine, and she had a slight smile.

I continued to make eye contact, wave and call out “hello” when I saw them.

After 10 years, I could feel the ice beginning to melt.

An occational bag of hand picked, fresh garden vegetables begun to show up on our front porch or a warm delicious zucchini loaf.

When my granddaughters came over, I took them over to play with our neighbors Golden Retriever, Max. He loved children and our neighbors appreciated that I brought my granddaughters over to throw the ball for Max.

When we were packing up our house to sell it, our neighbor came over to talk to me. His eyes were wet and his voice cracked as he said “We will miss you” “Who else will put up with me all these years like you did?”

Our friendship and our relationship grew not because we liked each other. It wasn’t because we had the same political views or because we had things in common. It wasn’t even because they liked me or I liked them. It developed slowly over time through deliberate acts of kindness, and respect, all the while building trust.

Some people are not easy to love but love is not always based on a warm fuzzy emotion. It can be a state of our will.  We can learn to love others if the motive is pure. I know this because while behaving like I loved my neighbor, in time I learned to love them. The bonus is, in return they learned to love me too.

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4 thoughts on “The Neighbor

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