April 9, 2007

Neighbor's Gift

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 70-something year old neighbor has a grandson who got out of jail and needed a place to stay. I don't know how this arrangement came about, but he's 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 two seconds later when he waved me down at the fence.

As I walked over, he apologized for interrupting my lawn mowing and said he just wanted to apologize for being a noisy and disrespectful neighbor.

Wow! This stuff works fast!!

I told him I appreciated that, and asked how I could be a better neighbor to him. My question stunned him as much as his apology did me. He didn't know how to answer.

But it didn't matter that he didn't know how to guide me to peace. The other day as I sat on the front lawn enjoying the sun with the dogs, he and his girlfriend slowed down as they drove by to make sure I saw them waving hello. (Yeah, they have a car.)

And the next day we chatted at the fence again about nothing in particular - just good neighbor talk.

I don't know if they just fight more quietly, 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 and opportunities, huh? Where would we be without them?


  1. I just wanted to say how much i enjoy visiting your blog and see what you are thinking about today.
    all the best

  2. Thanks for reading, Shayli, and for posting! I'd love to hear what you're thinking about as well. :)

  3. Jeannette!

    This reminds me so much of a situation Lynn Grabhorn talks about in "Excuse me-your life is Waiting." The people who rent her cottage, always keep the light on and the more frustrated she gets-the worse it gets. So finally she decides to just SEND THEM love and lots of it. At first its hard, and then it gets easier. Until finally-all is well! I love happy endings-there are so many of them. :)

  4. For those of you reading this story, you may be interested in the follow up posts:


    and the one dated 9/5 called "Hello, Honey"


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