It’s been accurately noted that we have no control over the family we’re born into. I would like to suggest the same is true regarding the neighbors who live around us.
Oh sure, you determine the neighborhood in which you move into, or more accurately your level of income does. But there’s no guarantee that two weeks after you move in, the friendly and quiet retired couple next door won’t sell their residence to a couple that fights continuously, has six demon-possessed kids and a dog that barks and/or howls round the clock.
The make-up of the “hood” in which I live has changed significantly over the past 25-plus years. Virtually all the retirees who lived around us when we moved in are now long gone. Most of those houses are now rental properties, which for better or worse feature a steady turnover of tenants.
While I try to be on good terms with all my neighbors, there are those who live around me that I feel more positively toward than others. That point was brought into focus last week when Nancy, my wife, and I undertook the first step in what will be a significant renovation to our property.
In front of our house were two large bushes, one on either side of the steps that lead up to the porch. Because our groundskeeper (me) had done a lousy job of keeping the bushes trimmed over the years, they had grown to a height of about 6 feet tall and were rather unsightly.
The bushes had also seemingly become a roosting spot for every sparrow in the neighborhood, which in turn led to a poo problem on our porch and railing.
While Nancy was ready for the bushes to go, I was for keeping them since they effectively hid some decaying facing on the front of our house. I promised my bride I’d be willing to say “adios” to the bushes when we were ready to begin work on the front of our house.
One day last week, Nancy called about mid-morning to inform me the day of reckoning had arrived and she had started whacking on one of the bushes.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed by people who live around us.
One person, visibly shaken by my wife’s actions, vocally expressed her displeasure that the bushes were being removed. She had voiced similar sentiments a few years ago when we had an old, old catalpa tree removed from our yard before it had a chance to fall on our house.
By the time I got home one of the faded green bushes had been reduced to a handful of brown stalks sticking out of the ground.
Page 2 of 2 - Noting how unbalanced the front of our house looked with just one bush remaining, I went to work on it when I got home from work that day. I hadn’t been working long before I heard a shriek from behind me, “Oh, my gawd!”
It was the same neighbor who had been chirping at Nancy earlier.
“Those bushes were so ‘purdy,’” she lamented in a volume undoubtedly heard within a three-block radius. Even more annoying was the fact her words were accompanied by a scolding finger wag in my direction.
In contrast to the one person, who chose to be critical, another neighbor approached Nancy and offered to have her husband haul off our bush branches in his pickup.
The Bible teaches we’re to “love our neighbors.” Obviously in some cases that’s easier said than done. But last week’s varied reactions by neighbors made me stop and wonder how those who reside around my home perceive me as a neighbor – critical of things that are none of my business, helpful when a need is observed, or just uninterested in the well-being of those around me.