Yesterday was an active day in our neighborhood… at least down by our corner of the block! Most of the homes in our neighborhood do not have fences so there is not much privacy when folks are out and about in their yards. Our lot is fenced and situated at the end of the road in such a place that we border a forested commons area on one side with a thick forest behind us. Our neighbor’s lot to the east of us is separated by a four-foot picket fence, and while it helps to keep the dog in our yard, our sightline is still open to views of the back yards all the way down the road.
Our immediate neighbors are usually very quiet and private folks. They are of Hispanic descent and tend to stay to themselves, although I have spoken to the wife on a few occasions and once to the husband who does not speak much English. Once or twice a year they will host a gathering in their backyard that seems to consist of family and friends. They enjoy their music and will sit around the fire pit or on the deck and talk late into the night. I knew something was up when I took the dog out for the night one day last week and the big box they had resting against their deck suddenly had turned into an above-ground swimming pool.
Well, the party began early yesterday afternoon. When Piper and I took the dog out for his first run of the day in our yard, he was immediately drawn to the sound of many voices and then caught a glimpse of the neighbor’s little white dog. Fiver ran up and down the fence line on our side, while their dog ran up and down on their side… both loudly barking and marking their territories!
I couldn’t help but laugh along with our neighbors at the sight. After a few moments their daughter scooped up their dog and brought him or her inside. I let Fiver take care of his business and then we all retreated back into the house. Meanwhile the neighbor's across the street from us had a rather large inflatable set up in their corner yard and within a short period of time their driveway and the street in front of their house was filled with cars while a crowd of kids and parents surrounded the play structure.
They weren’t really loud and by no means obnoxious, but it definitely was more noise than our quiet block usually reflects and Fiver was on high alert and wanting to go out front and check it out. I actually enjoyed seeing the kids playing out front. I like it when there is life in the neighborhood!
When Piper and I went out around five to water the garden, the party next door was in full swing. I didn’t see their dog so I let Fiver out and within a few blinks of an eye not just the neighbor’s dog appeared from the other side of the pool but two or three little brown ones as well! So… Fiver and the other dogs were all barking and everyone was staring at me and laughing!
Fiver was definitely excited but is also fairly obedient and when I told him to sit (a couple of times…) he sat still… quivering all over, but still and I grabbed him by the collar and directed him back into the house! After I finished watering the veggies and the new hydrangeas near the garage, I put Fiver on a leash and walked him to the opposite side of our backyard where he did his thing and all were happy!
I was thinking about all that this morning and reflecting on the fact that I had a decision to make at that time that would entail two different outcomes. One was to give way to the slight annoyance that I was feeling with our daily routine being broken with all the competing noises coming from next door. You know, it is a lot easier to just let the dog run free throughout the backyard, chase the ball when I toss it and be free to enjoy the quiet solitude of our yard while I garden, enjoy the scenery or simply talk to my wife.
With the dog being totally distracted my regular routine was not going to happen! So, what do I do… get angry… ask the neighbors to get it together for their once or twice a year family gathering or simply relax, realizing that it doesn’t happen all the time and that I wanted to take it easy yesterday anyway. I needed a rest from working on the landscaping project I started the day before.
Well… I chose the later of the two decisions! Piper and I jumped into the car and took a leisurely Sunday drive down the meandering two lane county road, through the beautiful countryside thriving with the vivid green fields of soybeans and tobacco to the small old downtown area of Lillington. I was telling my cousin in California later in the day that it felt like we took a step back in time. She had made a comment about our area being like the homes and countryside in the old movie classic Gone with the Wind. I replied that we had in fact, passed a few houses that closely resemble the home in that movie… albeit “mini” versions!
The party across the street ended around six in the evening, but the one next door was still going on when I took Fiver out at ten to take care of his before bed needs. It was actually kind of funny with a bunch of grown-ups in the pool shouting: “Marco… Polo!”
I am thankful for the great insulation in our house because we never heard the noise from the outside inside our home! But you know, it wouldn’t have mattered if we did. I didn’t know all the facts for the gathering next door, but I could see that they were having a great time and I didn’t want to put any kind of a negative shadow over their event.
Proverbs 3:5 in the Good News Bible tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.” This translation says a lot to me as I’ve been on the other end of tirades where I was accused of things that the perpetrators “thought” they knew about me or our situation… while in reality, were totally wrong! Since those times I personally tend to go overboard in researching the facts before I say or do anything when it comes to somebody else’s situation.
Sure, I was tempted to get riled up with the noise invading my private space and having to deal with our 67lb dog who was noisily reacting to the situation. But I simply chose not to! I probably could have leaned over the fence and talked to them to find out what was going on and then asked them for a little temperance, but I decided that their enjoyment of family and friends was more important than my sticking my nose where it probably didn’t belong in the first place.
So, I’m still friends with my neighbors, we watch over each other’s homes and we lovingly put up with each other when we do things differently than the way the other one would do it… I’m sure that there is some important Christian message in that statement!
But, for me it is all about being a blessing to others… and not try to reprove or improve someone’s life as I may think that my way is better than theirs! What do you think?
Have a good week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to love others… who may do things differently than I do, today?”