My friend told me of an email she received from her neighbor last week. This friend happens to be one of the kindest and most intuitive people I know, 2 qualities sure to top the list of anyone you have to live near. The email from her next door “friend” said something along the lines of: ” your kids toys are kind of cluttered and making our shared public space look messy, could you please pick them up?” She handled it with more grace and humor (with some help from her husband) than I have in my entire body. My response would have been to pull out all the Christmas and Easter decorations and plant them firmly in the front yard with some sort of sound contraption that got triggered by motion sensors. My good friend Dick used to say, if you throw a rock, I’m gonna throw a bolder. Good thing he and I doesn’t live in a glass house.
What is wrong with people, women in particular, and who has time for this crap? I am not talking about a ’67 gilappi propped up on cinder block stilts here. If I could guess, my friend’s 2 small children were playing outside with balls and bats and toys and were called in to dinner, leaving everything exactly where they stopped playing. Maybe it sat there for two days, causing the neighbor to rotate her steering wheel extra hard to get around some of the equipment. So what? In college lacrosse we had an expression: See it, Do it. If we started complaining about a teammate not hussling enough, we tried to run faster ourselves. If no one was coming back on defense or cutting to the ball or setting picks, the quickest way to solve the problem was to start doing it yourself. If nothing else, it stepped up your level of play which can be contagious.
My questions is this: what happened to the benefit of the doubt? Was there any concern my friend may be having a crazy week, a goldfish die or a dog escape, or just extra meetings and activities to shuttle to and fro? Was there any wonder if something really was going wrong in my friend’s life? We are
getting to that age when someone you have not heard from in a long time calls and you wonder before picking up the phone, I hope everyone is ok. Did the neighbor weigh the positives of a clean yard versus the negatives of tension between someone you live 2o feet from? I doubt it. We have forgotten about the benefit of the doubt. We have starting moving too quickly for grace.
So I got the idea to gather some stupid emails we have sent or received to make us all laugh at each other.
1. Neighbor complaining about toys in your driveway. (See above)
2. A neighbor petitioned the city, unbeknownst to my friend, to have a No Parking sign placed in my friend’s yard because “when y’all have friends over who park in the street it is just too hard for me to get out of my driveway.” Really? You have no better cause to contact your local government?
3. A neighbor flipped because we had a bike shed built that was not up to code; we put it 3 feet too close to the property line. I have no problem making the changes, we were not trying to cheat the law (I save that for the dog leash) or ruin their view of the driveway. But to contact the city, even after we said we would make the changes our builder already got from the city, and threaten us with comments like “are you threatening me,” has made the grass look less green on the other side.
3. I responded to a tennis team email saying I could play and then pestered the captain, lamenting how hard I was working to find a babysitter with all my other stuff. 3 days later she chuckled, telling me I was never in the lineup to start with.
4. Room parents. There are tons of entries for this category. Over Christmas, I received an email listing the names of who had donated -and who had not- to the teacher Christmas gift. Needless to say, I had not gotten around to writing my check but as I bitterly stewed about being called out, I began to think of those who had not contributed not because of spaciness (see #3) but because they could not afford to.
I would love to read yours. I am sure there are plenty for fodder.
This is the age of specialization and individuality and these can be fabulous advancements. We don’t have to watch shows we don’t want to, or commercials in the programs we do choose. We don’t have to answer the phone if we don’t like who is calling. ( I guess we always had this option it just felt like more of a crap shoot, not knowing who was on the other end.) We can be more efficient, more targeted. No more one size fits all. But with that, we have
thrown tolerance out the window put tolerance on the shelf. And grace has taken a backseat.
I am thankful God has not entered this technology age. I fear She would screen my calls or fast forward over my life, thinking it was a re-run of last week -same mistakes, same response. Sometimes it seems God is the only one on my side. I am not hearing the voice very clearly now but that means I don’t feel it yelling at me either. I am the one who sees my faults. I have neighbors -sometimes the whole world- pointing out mistakes too. I wonder what would happen if we brought grace back, to the forefront. I challenge you this week -after sending me your ludicrous requests from others- to put grace first. If you know better, do better (props Ash!). We all could use a break, and if you couldn’t, step up because your neighbor probably does.