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9to5to9: Love thy neighbor — that’s a challenge sometimes

Submitted by on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 No Comment

The note appeared on my sidewalk toward the end of a horrid week — the next day, I was to leave a job and friendships I’d had for 10 years.

“”Please mow your lawn. We all work very hard to maintain our yards. If this does not improve, we will contact the city. You have two weeks for improvement. Your neighbors.”"And that was it.

No knock on the door, no polite (or even impolite) conversation. Just an anonymous threat.

“”Neighbors”" did have a point. I’d tried hiring four different people for yard work, but none showed up. I mowed the back myself but quit, wheezing, before I could get to the front.

Decent excuses, yes, but not justification for my unkempt yard. My gardening habits are not the issue, though. The real problem: The snarky witch smarted off to a bully, who then launched an onslaught aimed at putting her in her place.

It bugs me, because I don’t get why people have to be that way. Why strict adherence to rules is more important than compassion or empathy. Why enforcement is used, not to keep peace, but to bludgeon. Why bludgeoning is the first weapon some choose when offended.

I could have bludgeoned. I could have opted for martial enforcement on everything from garbage cans to aggressive dogs to excessive lawn watering.

I didn’t, because none of it was worth making someone’s life miserable — the anonymous “”neighbors”" knew the snark-o-gram would do just that. My former employer’s financial troubles have been well-documented in the local media because, well, I worked for the local media. I’d separated from my husband. All this on top of the normal load of a working mom. 9to5to9′s not just a blog title; if anything, it’s a light day.

The yard became a big deal a few months back, after an acquaintance invited himself over to share scripture. The conversation was pleasant, with a general theme of forgiveness, until he got to Ephesians 5:22: “”Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”"

“”How’d that work for you?”" I asked, knowing he was divorced. It was my big mistake — sarcastic wisecracks are a character flaw.

He launched into a blistering critique. You’re lazy, and the house is a mess, he said. When my kids were little, my house never looked like this. And the kitchen is terrible — I’d never eat anything cooked in here.

Tit for tat, I figured. I’d wounded him with a careless comment, so he had to poke me.

But the poking continued. Some was ridiculous — I was accused of bugging neighbors’ houses. Some was nit picky — complaints about the guys’ trikes, bikes and scooters in the front yard, even as other kids helped themselves to them in our absence.

Then came the anonymous note. Except I recognized the penmanship.

“”Neighbors,”" I’m sure you’ve noticed the lawn is taken care of, so that will save you a call to the city.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness, too. I’ve grown fond of Ephesians 4:32:

“”And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”"

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • MtnMom (Cynthia) said:

    “This is love put to the test. Your scripture from Ephesians is the best anecdote you could come up with. We have a neighbor that can be nice but gets really picky about the cars. Doesn’t bother with a note before calling the police.

    It’s amazing how people are unaware that when they decide to “”take action”" you are in the midst of a living hell. When you need your neighbors to show themselves friendly you get a knock upside the head instead. People just don’t care anymore and it can really hurt and anger us.

    Thank God for our friends. I remenber the days when our neighbors where our friends. Much has changed in 20 years.

    Hope things are getting better for you and the guys. These are tough times and y’all are in our prayers. I love your blog, your writing and your “”get real”" style of writing about life!

    And as for the fella talking about the submission scriptures, remind him of all the scriptures reminding husbands to love their wives the way Jesus loves the Church: He suffered and died, gave his very life for the salvation of his beloved. Something for demanding men to think about.

    Take care!!
    Cynthia (MtnMom)”

  • Debra said:

    “Oh, thank you! I was hoping you or Leslie would weigh in, because you’re far more knowledgeable about religion than I and I respect your opinions.

    I wouldn’t say that no one cares anymore, but I do believe that we as a society are far more judgemental than 10, even five years ago. I think we both saw that, and were frustrated it, on other blog sites.

    I’d be inclined to speak out strongly against being judgemental, but that would be awfully judgemental of me, wouldn’t it? :)

    And certainly I’ve fallen into that trap at times, too, but largely I’ve tried to live by the Golden Rule and it mostly serves me well. With a heavy dose of Ephesians 4:32 on the side!”