Saturday, February 18, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor

We have a lovely neighbor named Louise who lives across the street. She’s a gray-haired, broadly smiling old lady who is frequently spotted watering her geraniums by the back porch or pulling out of her driveway in a cherry red car. She’s amiable, always waving to us when we pass by, and was particularly helpful in directing us to a great garage sale a few weeks ago.
I like Louise.
The directive, “Love thy neighbor,” never really hit home to me until fairly recently. I understood how we should love the poor, the outcast, the people we really don’t care for all that much.
But loving thy neighbor in the most literal sense of the word has become one of my personal greatest challenges.
You see, we share a house. We are renting a lovely, one hundred year home that has three floors for three different tenants. Floor #1 is a non-issue: quiet college student who must be pretty studious, as she’s not home all that much and when she is, we don’t hear a peep from her. She’s kind of like Louise. I like her.
Floor #2 is us.
Floor #3 is trouble. I don’t like them. At all.
What makes matters worse is that we share a common door and staircase with them. So their comings and goings (and those of the dozen or so friends who seem to visit them on a fairly daily basis) are very apparent to us.
So why don’t I like them? It hits at the very bones of what I’m striving to do here. Pax et bonum! A home full of peace and goodness: that’s my mission!
Alas, Floor #3 is a thorn in my side. How in heaven’s name can I foster peace when they are throwing a raucous party at 1 AM? How can I promote goodness when I am stewing in anger, resentful that their yelling/laughing/obscenity shouting is keeping me awake during the early hours of the day?
Charity doesn’t mean being a pushover. We’ve taken various measures to try to keep their antics at a more reasonable level (ex: calling the police during a revelry last weekend).
Charity does, however, necessitate loving them. Ugh! Loving them? My mind rattles off a dozen reasons why every ounce of me should not love them. And should I forget, our kitchen ceiling—wet from when they irresponsibly let their water overrun—is a ready reminder of the grudge I should hold against them.
Yet…yes, even those electric guitar playing, dreadlocks-wearing neighbors…even them I must love.
How? That’s what I asked my husband, who didn’t seem quite as perturbed and unsettled as I. He asked me to put myself in their shoes. All night parties. Rock music (and not very wholesome rock music at that). Obscenities. Dubious behavior.
Do they know the joy that we have? You know, the joy that springs forth from a heart that’s close to the very source of peace and goodness?
While I don’t know for certain what exactly transpires on that third floor (and, thank you, I’d rather never know the details), I highly suspect that, no, they don’t experience at all the joy that we do.
And for that, I am truly sorry for them. So I’m not certain, but perhaps maybe that’s where love can begin.

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