When we first moved into our Montana neighborhood, on a cul de sac, I was so excited. Families, children, dogs, close to schools, neighbors to chat with at the mail box, all of the good stuff.
You see, we moved to Montana from Wyoming. You might say, yeah, big deal, it’s pretty much the same. Oh no it’s not. Wyoming is a bit rough around the edges and a bit lawless. We were 75 miles from an interstate, and had lots of sage brush in pretty much every direction.
Everything there is extreme. The summers are roasting hot, the winters are freaking cold and frozen, the wind lifts roofs, and the perfect days are just so perfect that it’s hard for the mind to comprehend. But our neighbors were good people, to the bone good. They may not have been chatty, or super social, but they were kind and hard working. If I ever needed help, real help, they were there for me every time, and visa versa. We all looked out for each other, and not in a nosy neighborhood way. There was a sincere kindness, and realness to our life there, rough but very real.
When we arrived on our cul de sac, there were 19 children and 13 dogs. I thought that for sure this was going to be it! We were told that the dogs could be off leash and the children could play safely, everyone looked out for everyone else. Wow! Happy Valley.
Well it was a nightmare with dogs off leash everywhere, so we built a fence, planted a hedge, and built a garden. So did a few of the other homes. Things became a bit more peaceful and a bit kinder. Not so many neighborly conflicts. Our dogs were happier, and I was happier having them safe from some of the other dogs in the neighborhood.
Then we found that kindness was subjective. We were only one of two homes on our circle that didn’t go to the same church. Kindness was reserved for church friends, cold shoulders for the rest. This was actually OK with me, I was learning that things weren’t very ‘real’ after all, so doing my own thing was not a loss really. I had my kids, dogs and garden, life was good.
But this is also when the ‘sand box’ wars started. That oh so precious moment when a parents point of view slips out of a four year olds mouth, and you learn that kindness is really masked contempt and judgement. These little people spewing their parents hatred at my children because they didn’t go to the same church.
At one point I was told that ‘cleanliness was next to godliness’ by one of these charming four year olds. She didn’t even know what it meant, other than she was pointing to my laundry on the couch. So I told her to fold it if it bothered her so much. Funny, she never came down again.
Then years went by, everyone kind of fell into their own groove, and only minor neighborhood conflicts. There have been births, deaths, marriages, and two new families. Our dogs and children live a good life, my garden has continued to grow.
And it only took one trigger, just one the other night, to bring me back to that feeling I had when we first moved here.
We have four dogs, two are seniors. They are never off leash in our neighborhood, and we respect others properties. We still have to look out our driveway each time we take them for a walk to make sure our neighbors dogs aren’t cruising around.
Our one neighbor four houses down stood in the middle of the street and was throwing a tennis ball for his dog, right at our home and onto our property. You see we are the home at the back of the circle, it was a direct throw. So his dog came running down the street and right at our home. You can imagine four herding dogs watching another dog charge their home, it didn’t go well.
I went outside and started walking into the street and put my arms up in that universal questioning gesture. Any person from anyplace in the world, except my neighbor apparently, understands this gesture, everyone! He looked right at me, and thru the ball in my direction, and his dog came running at me to get to the ball. Again my dogs were going nuts watching this all go down. His action was intentional, disrespectful, and adolescent, and he is a grown man, my senior.
We exchanged words.
Everyday for the past four days his dog has been cruising around the neighborhood, he has been walking his dog off leash, and throwing the ball in the street, oh but only half way down now. He is actually making a concerted effort to be disrespectful and unkind. And he continues.
I know that some of the kids in our neighborhood read my blog. Thank you, I appreciate you checking in, truly.
So here are my thoughts.
It is important for every family to be kind and loving to their children and animals. It is also important to be respectful and kind to your neighbors. This doesn’t mean you need to be buddy buddy, but rather to honor their existence on this planet and be kind, be real. Going to church and learning about kindness is not necessarily ‘living’ that same kindness.
When you are out in the world, and amongst people and animals of all walks of life, this is truly where kindness counts the most, this is the 99% part of your life, the part that truly counts. Doing it, not just talking about it.
My friend has talked about home re model ideas like moats, turrets, and draw bridges. I think I might take him up on his offer sometime soon!
Be kind, be respectful, and most of all be real … Nancy