“She told me to walk on the other side of the street! Can you believe that?”
I was in my front yard on a warm summer evening, battling my way through weeds that were taking over.
He was out for his usual stroll with his hunting dog.
I didn’t want to have a conversation at the time, but whenever I am out there, I wear a sign that says, “Tell me all your problems.”
A few doors down from me, one of the residents wasn’t considering the effects her barking dog was having on the rest of us within hearing distance.
I usually can drown out the sound and go on with my life, but this was unusual. The first time I heard it, I was in the driveway with my daughter talking about her new vehicle lease when I thought I heard a car accident happen. In my mind, I imagined a child being run over. It was a full-on scream, then it reminded me of a dinosaur roaring, and then it switched to the sound of Godzilla eating an entire city.
I stood frozen, not wanting to look in the street for fear of the carnage I would see. My daughter, seeing my reaction, said casually,
“That’s the new dog on the corner.”
“That’s a dog? That sounds like everything else but a dog.”
It went off again, and I heard it for the entire summer, imaging Jurassic park. At the mailbox, when taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn, it was constant.
As summer ended and fall arrived, our house was open less, so I figured it would be quieter. This was not true. Like an ugly alarm, it went off every day at 6 am, and without our air conditioning running, it was like the dog was in my living room.
It wasn’t just the initial shock of it but also the duration. It would go on for hours, and for some reason, during the winter, it was like someone turned up the volume.
“Dinosaur dog is out,” I would say often.
By the time spring came again, I was getting used to it. Every once in a while, it would still startle me, but it was starting to become background noise for the most part. But not to this neighbor.
“I walk my dog past their house every day, and she refuses to control hers.”
I knew there was a fence, so there wouldn’t be an attack, but the way it was being handled bothered him.
“When I go by there, my dog becomes so frightened, and when I’m at my house, I hear it barking nonstop.”
“And you talked to her about this?”
“Yes. She told me that I should walk on the other side of the street if it bothers me so much!”
I could tell by the tone of his voice that she hadn’t been pleasant about it.
“Does it wake you up in the morning?” I asked.
“It does us, but I have just put up with it. I don’t want to cause a problem.”
It was an attempt to make him understand that maybe it wouldn’t bother him as much anymore if he quit focusing on it.
He frowned and looked more unsettled. So much for that idea.
“Someone should call a community officer and have them come to speak with her. She spoke to me so rudely when I tried to have a nice discussion with her about this.”
Interestingly, this person has filled her front yard with signs telling all of those who trespass to be tolerant. Her views are on full display, and it’s her property to do so. But her actions toward this guy seemed to say it was her way or the highway and could quickly erupt into a bigger problem. I wanted no part of that.
This is why I wanted to leave sleeping dogs alone.
“That dog wakes you up?”
“I don’t like it,” he said with too much venom and walked away. I had a bad feeling.
Later, my daughter and I went on a walk, and when we went past the house under scrutiny, all was silent. I looked at her as we got near the tall wooden fence, and it was quiet.
Further down the street, she said,
“I think he said something.”
“I hope he didn’t include me.”
On our way back, I was glared at as I walked by a sign in the yard telling me to be considerate of everyone.
“Peace Love and Joy seems upset,” I said when we returned home.
The other day, I saw a post on social media that pointed out how we don’t know our neighbors’ names but make them up by their behavior.
“I think I do this,” I said.
“Yes, you do. You always say ‘the old guy across the street’ is doing something.”
I had just said that because I saw him out raking, and the rake was winning.
“Peace Love and Joy?”
“It’s easy to remember,” I said, defending myself.
“The ‘I don’t like it’ guy?”
“It’s the last thing he said to me.”
“The guy in the blue house?”
Oh, ya. Him. He was the reason I didn’t want to get into a dog fight with Peace Love and Joy. He lives right next to her and has proven to be difficult as well. If he ever changes the paint color on his home, he will still be the guy in the blue house as far as I’m concerned.
He has tried everything in the book to let me know he didn’t like living by me for almost thirty years. If I were in the backyard visiting with people, he would fire up his lawnmower at that exact time to send a message. I would catch him peering out his blinds, watching what I was doing because weed whipping is so criminal.
I had tried to run interference between him and a lady who had lived next door to me for years. She was notorious for leaving her house and letting her two dogs come and go as they pleased. Many times, they had been left out barking, unattended. He had gotten to calling the police at the slightest woof. I knew this, so I have kept an eye on mine not to bring on his wrath over the years.
She never had a good word to say about him, and my first impression of him wasn’t the greatest. He went on a tirade because he wanted no one mowing the lawn outside of the fence near his property because we could claim that inch as ours down the road. He seemed volatile and unpredictable.
I saw a squad car pull up when I got home one day.
“Her dog has been outside barking for hours. I heard it, but I forgot about it,” my daughter told me.
I grabbed the house key for the neighbor’s front door that she had given me after we had to jump her chain link fence the last time this happened.
The police officer rolled down his window.
“Are you here because of a barking dog?”
“Did the guy in the blue house call?”
“We aren’t supposed to say, but yes.”
“I already know. I have a key, so can I go in and get the dogs back in the house?”
I wanted to be sure he didn’t think I was breaking in and then haul me off to jail.
“You have a key?” He asked, realizing I was his best friend in this situation.
“Yes. The person who lives here gave me one. I can go in and make sure this stops.”
Since then, she has moved, so the guy in the blue house has calmed down somewhat, and I think he has had some spiritual awakening. First, he lives next to Peace Love and Joy and has never complained of her T-Rex. Second, I went by his house last summer, deep in thought, listening to an audiobook, and I saw something move. When I glanced up, he had the biggest smile and waved at me. I think he said hi, but I had my earbuds in.
I slowed down, and I knew I squinted to scrutinize the situation, expecting him to spring into the street and chloroform me suddenly.
I hesitantly raised my index finger to acknowledge and was going to hurry on. He smiled bigger and waved more fervently. I nodded at him and moved away. Baby steps.
Mr. Rogers made it look so easy. He would zip up his sweater, throw a shoe and catch it before putting it on, all the while singing about how great it was to be surrounded by people of various diversity.
He thrived and was thrilled when people had something different from him. He viewed the presence of others as a chance to learn something new.
As an ordained pastor, he was practicing this from Mark 12:31:
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NLT)
Sometimes, you can love people from a few blocks over, especially if they prove to be toxic and you don’t click with them. You don’t antagonize, and keeping your distance can help prevent more issues.
I have no idea where we get the idea that suffering is love.
If any of the people around me had an emergency or needed help, I would, despite their political views or horrible attitude. To me, that’s God’s love.
When the mail carrier whipped her truck into my driveway, I was in my garage.
She gave me that look like my young entrepreneur who works from home had ordered many supplies she didn’t want to heft up to the door from the street.
“Has she been at it again?” I asked.
“Yes, she has! And my knee is swollen again, so I need your help.”
This lady and I are opposites for beliefs, and what is the current argument that the media hopes will entangle us all in snarling encounters.
Despite that, she said,
“I have to go to the bathroom so bad, and I still have two hours left. Can I use your restroom?”
She knows I will always say yes because I always do.
Before she left, she told me all her complicated family issues and then said,
“You always make me feel better after I talk to you. You are a good listener. And I would never ask anyone else to use their bathroom.”
“This is why I’m on your route,” I said. She smiled and limped back to her truck.
The old guy across the street will mow his lawn five times a day; Mr. I Don’t Like It is going to walk his hunting dog at 6:30 sharp every evening on whatever side of the street he wants. Peace Love and Joy will do her best to live out her truth no matter how abrasive she might be, and the guy in the blue house is probably at the hardware store right now picking out a lovely new shade of weird.
And while I live here, they are all His, which makes them mine.