Grandma always said you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and I guess she was right. My neighbors and I have been involved in an altercation with the neighbor down below us who has the legal easement to the main road for all of us to use, for the past four months or so. He began blocking the easement on garbage day using all of our trash and recycle bins, soon he began keeping the driveway all the time. He decided to put up a barrier with scrap wood, and when that wasn’t sufficient for him, he started parking his truck in the middle of the easement, with no way to get around him. Finally, he put his planter boxes in front of his truck, used the wood barrier to connect the big pots and parked in front of that. Why, you might ask? First of all because he is a very nervous personality and the easement runs along the front of his yard and his driveway which is very short, and the line of sight isn’t good. When he comes walking alongside his truck you can’t see him until he is at the end of it, and almost in the easement. On a side note, I might mention that my neighbor is probably 4’ 8” or so. He lives in mortal fear that he might get hit or that one of his animals might get hit. As a retired veterinarian, he lives and breathes for his animals. Unfortunately, one day someone visiting our house came up that driveway too quickly and scared him so he began this campaign to block off access.
As I mentioned before, this is the legal access for all other neighbors to use and is recorded in all of our home deeds. There is an additional access point located to the south of his property that includes road frontage on our property. There is a short jog off the main easement that is unpaved, gravelly, lumpy and bumpy that ends perpendicular to the main road where you have to turn 90 degrees to the right, past an overgrown lilac tree, with an electric pole in your way, you must then bend around the bank of mailboxes, avoid the big trucks from the industrial yard across the street and pull out in front of a blind curve on your left, so yes, we can get to the main road if necessary but it is not our preferred method. I give you all this background to let you know that our neighborhood is in an uproar. All of us had tried talking to our neighbor on many occasions but there was no rationalizing with him and in the end the conversation would degenerate as he got nastier and nastier. Everyone that lives here happen to be very nice people. We put up with his behavior but it impacts our daily lives and frankly our safety is in jeopardy as well.
I have fought with bitterness and anger as he personally attacked me, and said some awful things. In the last 6 years we have invested in this relationship. We bring him food quite regularly and occasionally stock his freezer with homemade soups, we buy him birthday and Christmas presents, we invite him to all our family events, and we hold lively political and religious debates a couple of mornings a week after the kids get on the school bus. This escalation felt like it came out of nowhere and caused immense turmoil. I vacillated between deep hurt and the desire to do or say something I knew I shouldn’t, even to the point that I may have spun gravel pulling out of my non easement side-on purpose! This just could not continue. Our neighbor who is on a limited income had gone so far as to hire a lawyer rather than talk to any of us. We began to contemplate moving if this continued much longer. The tipping point came one evening when I looked out the window and saw this neighbor with a strange woman I’d never seen before,
pointing up at our house, gesticulating wildly. What on earth, I thought to myself. I tried to eat my dinner but I couldn’t. My stomach was in knots. I told my husband that I was going down to see what was happening and he had me wait while he got his shoes on to come with me. I think he was a little afraid of what I might say, I’m sure. When we got down there we introduced ourselves and met the president of our well water community. She was lovely and we were soon laughing and talking which made my neighbor upset. He began to mutter things under his breath that I could hear and they were not complimentary. I asked him what he was saying and to just say it to my face but he shook his head and headed back to his house.
Something within me decided we needed to have a conversation and try to break through the impasse. I followed him back to his house and called his name but he ignored me. The compulsion to make him talk to me got stronger so I got louder. He had one foot in his doorway when he realized there was no way I would be ignored so he slowly turned around. We began a conversation that we had already had a few times where he said no one understood him and I told him how unfair it was not to get our input so we could all work out a reasonable solution everyone could live with. I reminded him of the years of friendship we had shared and asked why we couldn’t discuss this. He got nasty and mean and at that moment everything changed. It was truly a God thing. I looked at him with fresh eyes, those of Creator God, in that moment I really saw my neighbor how God sees him, as a child of His, as a hurting individual in pain and as someone to feel compassion for. So I told him, (in God’s power I know, not in my own flesh), that I was hurt and wounded by what he said and then I said in total sincerity, “I love you”. At that moment, the dam broke and he welled up with tears in his eyes and we hugged for some time. Where no amount of reasoning would touch him, love broke through. As the Bible tells us,
Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. NIV
And also in Proverbs 15:4 Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. The Message
The rest of our conversation was immensely healing, we made great progress in our personal struggle. The future is still a little uncertain for our neighborhood easement but I do know that we have the power to hold a conversation now, and to come to a mutual agreement because of the Love of God. The bitterness and anger I was dealing with was gone and in that moment I felt the pure and awesome love of God, and I realize there is no force that can stand against it.