It's a commandment straight from God. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. For the most part, we have good neighbors here. To my left is a family comprised of grandparents, a mom and 3 kids just about the same ages as my children. For the first 6 months after we moved in, our relationship with these neighbors consisted of a friendly wave across the driveway. We were still settling in, and we had just been submerged into a life with children who had just been diagnosed with Down syndrome and Autism.
Then, one day, the mom came and knocked on our door. "Hi, I live next door," she said, "and I hear you have a child with Down syndrome." My defenses immediately went up. Funny. I wouldn't have thought twice about it now, but back then I was sure everyone was out to ridicule. "Yes..." I said cautiously, "We do." She broke out in a huge smile and said, "We do too!!!" Her son was just a few months older than Kennedy, and an instant bond was formed. Because both our families lead busy lives we don't get together as much as we used to, but every once in awhile we will take the time to catch up with each other. When Frank was deployed they checked in with me and made sure we were ok. They did store runs for me once when the kids were sick and my mom was out of town. It's very easy for me to love my neighbor.
To my right is a family with one teenage daughter. They are friendly and quiet and we have chatted on occasion. They actually put their house up for sale last summer and it made me sad. They're great neighbors!!! Fortunately (for me anyway) their house didn't sell. (Yet.) But see, there's a reason they want to sell... and I really can't blame them.
On the other side of their house is another family. The house is trashed. Now my house is by no means immaculate, but to compare, the police told this family to get their house cleaned up and when a cleaning crew came they had to wear hazmat masks just to go inside. Seriously. At last count they have 7 children. I think. I've seen these children outside in short sleeves in 20 degree weather. They rarely wear shoes and most of the time look like they haven't been bathed in weeks. Several times, I've seen a small child locked outside the house all day. We've called CPS... all of us. Practically everyone on the street has called. They come and they leave and the kids are still there. The mom is a known drug user and the dad stands out on the driveway screaming obscenities at his children.
When we first moved in 5 years ago, the kids would come over and ask to come in our house to play. I had already been warned not to let them in. They steal, and they beg for food, and once you feed them, they come over every day to eat. A couple years ago I caught one of the children throwing rocks at my van. I took him down to his house (he screamed obscenities at me the whole way) only to be told that he just got off restriction and she didn't know what else to do with him. Nice. The next time I was outside he came over and let me have it. In front of our kids. And so to protect our children we've had to refuse to let them in. Every neighbor on the street has had to make the same choice.
My biggest complaint however has been their dumb dog. They have a backyard with a fence, but their dog runs free. He's a friendly dog, but Kameron is terrified of dogs and so we don't go outside. Ever. One day the dog came up to our van door just as Kameron opened it to get out. He screamed and cried and for the next month he wouldn't get out of the van until I got out and checked and made sure the dog wasn't there. The dog poops in our yards, eats flowers, digs through our trash, and barks and howls at 3am. We've all called the cops. Continuously. They send animal control who takes the dog away and a few days later he's back home again. It's frustrating.
So last night I got a phone call from my neighbor on my right letting me know that she talked to the mother of these children the other day because the kids are constantly running through our yards and bending the fence at the back of our houses. She asked the kids to stop coming through our yards. And now? She has obscenities spray painted on the street in front of her house... and we have swastikas in front of ours. We didn't even do anything!
And so, as Frank goes out and spray paints over the swastikas in front of our house, we will remind ourselves to love our neighbors. Sometimes it's not so easy.