The Family Next Door…

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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15 responses

  1. Well, you are moving in the right direction. Why don’t you learn a few simple Spanish phrases like hello, goodbye, please and thank you? It’s amazing how just attempting to speak someone else’s language breaks down walls.

  2. I found family in a package I never thought I would. It didn’t come with my familar packaging – but inside it’s everything I’ve ever hoped for and dreamed of. For me this is either three strikes and I’m out, or third times a charm. I’m feeling really charmed and cherished this time!

    I pray you too will find what your heart longs for. Chip gave me hope that it’s never too late to find love. And no matter how many times you’ve failed, there’s still a chance to find it!

    Love = family = bliss

    • Again Jenn, I could not be more happy for you. I believe this one is your guy, and a good model for Nate.

      These days, my heart belongs to my daughter, my mom, and my dog — and that’s I trifecta worth more than I could hope for!

  3. Just a note of encouragement. I have lived in a diverse neighborhood for five years now. My next door neighbors and across the street neighbors are Spanish speaking families with many friends and relatives who gather with them multiple times per year and are boisterous at times but always shut down the party at a reasonable time. In my early years they seldom responded to my greetings. Slowly neighborly issues occurred which allowed them to see that I meant no harm and could even be helpful. Hang in and keep being friendly. It is likely that if you could see into their lives more you would know why they have those dogs and fence protecting them. I found small gestures helped my neighbors accept me and no longer view me as a threat to them. In my early days here, I at times found myself resenting them but kept working my meditation practice and readjusting my attitude as you do. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Jeannie. Though you and I have never met, I am appreciative that we have connected via social media.Your son has been a positive influence in my life.

      I have been in this community 17 years now — mostly Hispanic. It’s part of why I chose this town; it has a 3rd world charm that I love.

      For the most part, I do very well with my neighbors, almost all of whom are from Mexico or Guatemala. The family next door though, just like to keep to themselves. I will keep on reaching out because that’s who I am, and maybe in time they will accept…

  4. You’re a member of Our Ohana. Continue to kindness towards the Familia next door. I’ve been guilty of it too in pre judging people,even in public,let alone neighbors.
    Continue the art ob being neighborly by continuing to be Friendly. At one time Fallbrook was known to be The Friendly Village…..
    No you have not screwed it all up. Stay Happy and Positive,You’re Neighbors will feel your vibe. Love You Man, Always Ohana.

  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your ability to see what so many others choose to be blind to, is what makes you a terrific writer and observer of the human condition.
    The key word here is human. It’s what keeps us from perfection, and keeps us humble.

    • Thanks, Pete. If I wasn’t so hard on myself, I wouldn’t be as Jewish, and that’s a badge I wear with honor.

      As for observing life, and the people in it, I’m grateful that my eyes and ears work so well…

  6. In contemplative morning meditation, I also use to remind myself not to judge others but within that space, I realize that I have just passed judgement in a big way.

    I now remind myself not to judge or compare
    1. Myself
    2. Circumstances
    3. Lifestyles

    In doing that it, it seems to make the day much more tolerable

  7. Roy I am responding late but being from a huge Spanish family and get togethers are always boisterous. I think the one way to reach out is through music. Music was always one of the great binders at the family events. You could go back into our past when we had the Gigantes Del Pop cassettes. Seriously play some spanish music just loud enough to be heard across the fence, it may be a great conversation starter or you’ll have a pit bull crap on your doorstep. Be good

    • As I have said before, Cliff, no comments on this blog — none, mean more than yours. I’m grateful, all these years later, to still have this connection.

      Your idea is a great one, and one that I will actually use. In this age of electronic streaming, this should not be a problem at all. I’ll be planting here in the coming weeks; tomatoes, cucs, peppers, etc., and I will be sure to play some Spanish and Spanish influenced music as I prep and plant.

      La musica, las musica — de los Talking Heads…..

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