As we drove around the corner into our road late that Saturday evening, I had an uneasy feeling. And I wasn’t mistaken…
During the summer of 1979, I’d organised a large collection of waste paper to raise funds for our church. About 20 raffia sacks had sat in our garden shed ready for collection that day. We’d made it clear we’d be going out at around 3 pm, and in preparation we’d brought the sacks onto our drive. But the van hadn’t yet appeared. We needed to move the sacks so we could drive our car out.
Harold and Betty, the very proper middle-aged couple next door, had a garage close to the road, with a short driveway next to ours. We knew they’d gone out for the day, so we moved the sacks onto their drive, got into our car and drove off. We were quite sure the van would arrive soon. Of course it would…
We could hardly believe the sight that met our eyes. The sacks were still there, but their contents were strewn chaotically all over our driveway. No van had come. Harold and Betty had arrived home to find our sacks in front of their garage, and had ‘seen red’. How dare we infringe their property like that!!
Neighbour disputes are a common problem. We’ve experienced a fair few ourselves over the years, and have had to learn some hard lessons about respecting people’s property, their choices, and their sensitivities. I often talk to people who appear to have neighbours from hell. Being a neighbour searches out people’s differing attitudes towards many aspects of life, such as gardening, maintenance of the boundaries, noise, and privacy. And my favourite – do you mind if your neighbour hangs his/her underwear on the washing line? What a host of opportunities to fall out! Yet, as the soap opera rightly says, “Good neighbours become good friends.” What a wealth of opportunities to laugh together, enjoy hospitality, to care for each other, to solve practical problems…
That’s why I chose this as a topic for the short story featured in my booklet that’s been published this week. I’ve got a large consignment of them to distribute, before they go on general sale in about 3 months’ time. The story features Harry, whose neighbour Florence has asked him to pay for the repair of her wall, damaged by his tree. Harry doesn’t feel he is liable, so he turns to his other neighbours, Ken and Becky, for support.
You’ll have to read it to find out the rest. But as Ken and Becky challenge Harry, he begins to see the situation from Florence’s viewpoint. An extraordinary act of generosity opens his heart and mind to see goodness where previously he’d seen nothing but bad motives.
A few days ago my friend Sally, also a writer, sent me an encouraging ‘thought for the day’ that featured St Paul’s words in Philippians 4 verse 8. I’ve condensed it slightly:
“Whatever is true, right, noble, pure, admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
The writer of the ‘thought’ encourages us to focus our minds on things that ‘elevate’ us, and Sally herself applied this to the uplift she receives when she’s written a ‘Spirit-guided line’. I can identify, but it also gives me good advice if you have to deal with troublesome neighbours. To see the good in what they do, to thank them for small kindnesses, to appreciate their achievements in looking after their garden…this is a great start, and will make it much easier when a word is needed to tackle a problem area.
I know our late Queen would have wholeheartedly agreed. Qualities like neighbourliness, kindness, understanding, putting myself in another’s shoes, patience, ‘speaking the truth in love’, peppered every one of her Christmas broadcasts. In other words, behaving as Jesus would!
2 thoughts on “Neighbours from Hell?”
I entirely agree with this article. Good neighbours are a blessing so we should try and be one!
How exciting John that publication is this week! My contribution is still tucked away as I haven’t seen you but I’ve not forgotten my promise to support you.