For the past several months my neighbor offered me a gift I did not see as such – until now. It’s only within the last couple weeks I’ve started to see it for what it really is.
My sweet next door neighbor has a grandson who recently got out of jail and for some reason is sleeping in a tent in her backyard. Which officially makes him my closest neighbor. You could say I live next to a homeless guy. And his girlfriend. (Yeah, believe it or not, he’s got a girlfriend in on this gig.)
I know it’s strange to have people living in a tent next to your house, but I’ve had a while to get used to it. Almost a year, as a matter of fact.
The part I haven’t gotten used to is the all night fighting between this homeless grandson and his girlfriend. It’s deteriorated to the point where neighbors have called the police several times – twice by me.
Over the months I’ve gone from being irritated to angry to sympathetic to incredulous to angry again. I thought I heard a gunshot over there one day and thought “I hope she shot him.” (What would Mr. Rogers say??)
Recently it dawned on me that I was asking them to do what I wasn’t able to myself – be at peace. I wanted them to be quiet and get along. And yet, here I was, angry and noisy and fighting with them – even if just in my mind.
I recognized if I wanted peace, it had to start with me.
Now, it’s taken me a few weeks to get there, but I have. In fact, while mowing the lawn the other day, I thought “I wonder how I could be a better neighbor to my homeless couple?” I thought I might ask them next time I saw them. Which was later that day when he apologized for being a noisy and disrespectful neighbor.
Wow! This stuff works fast when you work it!
In short order it was like I had a completely different neighbor. He made a point of waving whenever he saw me, and would occasionally stop at the fence to chat like good neighbors do.
I don’t know if he just fights more quietly with his girlfriend, or if there’s peace in the tent – but I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night for … well, I can’t remember the last time they woke me up.
So my neighbor has gifted me with the opportunity to find peace within myself, and thus set the example for the world I want to live in. Thank God for neighbors willing to offer these gifts. Where would we be without them?