Each morning, in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others…
I have lived in my current house for almost a year. I’m happy here. I enjoy it. This is home now. The family next door is a landscaper, his stay at home wife, and their two adult children; a son and a daughter, each in their early 20s.
My neighbor’s yard is separated from mine by a chain link fence with wooden slats woven through the links – it’s very 3rd world. A double gate separates their driveway from the street we share. That gate more resembles a junkyard entrance than that of a home. The junkyard comparison is only reinforced by the two pit bulls with heavy chain collars who patrol behind the gate.
Unless otherwise barking at the postman, squirrels, or falling palm frawns, the dogs sleep, and occasionally amble between several old cars on blocks, the old refrigerator, and the dead tress which give my neighbor’s back yard its lived in look.
The gate to the driveway is bound shut by a heavy chain, and a giant padlock.
One sign reads… PRIVATE PROPERTY
The other… BEWARE OF DOG
Each time someone comes or goes from my neighbor’s property, the chain must be unlocked and removed. That operation is noisy. The chain clanks as it falls, the dogs bark, and the gate screeches on its axis as it drags against the dirt below.
My neighbors come and go all day long – often 10-12 times per day, between the 4 of them. At least once per hour, I hear the chain, the gate, and the barking dogs. Add to that, when either of the adult children come or go, the stereos in their cars thump so loud that vibrations transcend, and the walls and windows of my own home shake.
I don’t like these people. I try to like them, I really do, but I can’t seem to. I don’t like that I don’t like them, but I don’t like them.
I wave. I say hello. When I attempt to greet them, the two parents acknowledge me, but do so scarcely, and usually looking down. At best I get a slight head bob or a weak hand gesture. The two adult children have never even made eye contact with me – it’s as though they live in another dimension of time and can’t see me.
The son always wears a wife-beater t-shirt. His tough guy face is puffy and not all that tough. His tattoos are many, and probably mean something to him. His physique sloppy and resembles a bowling pin. I dislike him the most because of the falseness of the bad attitude he attempts to convey. I feel more laughter than intimidation when I see him.
At night, mother, father, and the two children spend much of their time in the back yard. The barbecue fires, mariachi music emanates with a tinny sound from a small radio on the hood of one of the old cars. Voices and laughter are frequent. It’s the sound of a happy family.
I speak no Spanish so I have no idea what they are saying, but I recognize joy in the conversation. They seem to live, love, and enjoy each others company. They do this every night. They are a family in a way which is foreign to me. I have never been a part of a family like this. I am jealous.
Maybe that’s why I don’t like them – that they get family right, and I have failed at it multiple times. Yeah, that’s probably it. I have failed at family, and despite their gruff appearance, they seem immersed in it, and fluidly.
Each morning in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others. By 9:00am most days, I have screwed it all up. Still, I keep trying. In writing this today, I think I like my neighbors a little more now, and myself, probably a little less. Family… Jhciacb
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