Love your neighbor is a ‘thing’ I am supposed to do. I can do this of course but not in the geographic sense of the word. As an idea, a concept, a metaphor-type thing I can most certainly accomplish this. Through my work I can and do work and interact with many who would fit nicely into a Sunday morning sermon of being our ‘neighbors’ who we reject and cast aside. I get that part and I think I do that part well. But my actual neighbors?
My wife asked me the question in the last couple of days on if there were any neighbors that I have liked or enjoyed living beside in my entire life? I think she was being sarcastic when she asked the question but I attempted to answer it sincerely anyway. I paused and thought hard about her question – thinking back to all of the places that I have lived and more specifically all of the people that I have lived beside. After a long awkward pause I realised I needed to own my answer – and that was a resounding “NO”. The word just hung there in the air waiting for its full impact to be felt. I just let it fall to the floor echoing the horrible truth.
I am that sort of guy.
No, I think it is far worse then that. I am that sort of neighbor.
No, I am still sugar coating it. I AM that neighbor. That ‘old guy’ who is cantankerous, grumpy, and will wave whatever stick around shouting threats at those who even attempt to come close to his property line. I have no idea how it was that I have come to this place and quite frankly I am not yet sure how I feel about it.
Now that may surprise you for surely I should already know how I feel about it. I should feel horrible about it. I shouldn’t try to be that neighbor. I should be appalled that such a description has descended upon me – by none other than my wife of all people and out of such a scathing description of self I should aspire to be someone better.
But the truth is I don’t know if I want to.
I like being left alone. I like it when my neighbors don’t get ‘involved’ in my business – my life. I like it when I don’t have to clean up after the neighborhood children have thoughtlessly strewn their toys and garbage over my yard. I like my peace and quiet and the safety and security of my home – free from intrusions, free from curiosities, free from ‘drop-ins’, free from awkward social conversations where I am supposed to participate in small talk with other people whom I hardly know.
Actually, the more I think about it – I am loving my neighbors dammit! I am not intruding onto their personal space – or allowing my children to go rummage through their yard, or asking them silly questions about the weather or otherwise interrupting their day. This is me loving my neighbors. Come to think of it when I do think of it in those terms I am the most loving neighbor on my entire block! I leave every single one of them alone!
Now if I could only figure out how to stop the elderly lady who lives across the street from me from rolling out my garbage can on garbage pick-up days….