Like everyone on this side of paradise, I’ve got my challenges. Lately, stray cats, flies, and neighbor challenges. My mother-in-law feeds stray cats canned Salmon Surprise on our cement. Her cats kindly leave a portion for the flies. They swarm around our garbage cans like there’s a party going on, the hot spot on the block. Lifting the lid releases a Pandora’s Box cloud of flies. And I’ve got a neighbor.
A scorching day, garbage day, my daughter waits on her bike for our beach trip as I collect the garbage cans, dragging them back to the house. I stop before passing the lilac bush to get the tossed lid off the grass. When I slap the dented lid on, something moves inside. I peer into a sea of worms—hundreds of wiggling, white, fly larva. Not what I want to see on my way to the beach.
I throw my hands up in disgust and whine to Jordan, “Oooh, there’s worms! How groce!” She drops her bike to take a look.
I don’t know my neighbor is watching.
The next morning, I carry out the recyclable bin, clunking with Snapple bottles and ignore the fly can still on the lawn. Donna is crossing the island. I prefer the pleasant wave in the morning before coffee; if she crosses the grass island, she’ll talk my ears, nose, and toes off for an hour. She’s friendly and we laugh, but now I just need coffee.
“I’ve got something to say to you.” It must be about one of my teenage sons. She hates when they play ball near her house. She’s complained before that they aim for her window. She continues to ramble...
“You know, I can’t help it...that’s where my window is, and I look out when I’m at the computer or I sit outside on my porch and smoke. I’m a sick woman and that’s what I do.” I’m completely perplexed.
“Okay, and?” What’s she getting at?
“Yesterday, I saw you go like this...” She imitates the same hand motion I gave to Jordan after discovering worm soup in the garbage. It clicks—she misinterpreted the gesture as “what are YOU looking at?”
I try to explain the flies, the garbage, the worms, the hand signal . . . sure she’ll laugh and say, “Oh, I’m sorry. How silly of me!” Instead, Donna interrupts, “No, you were looking right at me.” And storms away.
My heart races, body boils at the thought of being falsely accused. I’m steamed.
On the other side of paradise, she wouldn’t be angry, I wouldn’t have bugs, and I wouldn’t lose my temper. But I’m here, on this side, so I march across the island where dog-walkers roam, up her stone walkway, lined with manicured periwinkle hydrangea and golden daisies, straight to her frosted glass front door with the ladybug welcome mat. My pulse beats fast, adrenaline gushing through my body. The door opens; I’m inches from her hazel eyes, wrinkles, and pursed lips. She steps outside.
“You need to stop accusing and listen,” I begin.
“You’re yelling. I won’t listen to yelling.”
“I’m not yelling,” I say, raising my pitch slightly and pushing down a frustrated scream.
“You know, my son is home.” Her smoking hand is planted on her hip.
I wait for her to stop. “What do you think I’m gonna do?” I try again, explain fly larva, garbage, the hand gesture meant for Jordan. “I didn’t know you were outside watching me...I was talking to my daughter.”
“I know what I saw—you were looking right at me. And I have to say, you always make me feel uncomfortable.” She turns around and stomps over to her son’s yellow Ferrari.
“What? Are you kidding? I’ve never said a mean word to you! Ever!” My voice peaks at a seven.
She slams her car door. I’m angry the rest of the day.
Of course the next day, a friend gives me a devotion book by Joyce Meyer. The second paragraph begins, “If someone offends us early in the morning, our anger can keep us defensive all day.” Lord, are you talking to me?
I’ll need God’s grace to get along with my accusing neighbor. Jesus does know what it’s like to be falsely accused on this side of paradise.
I look forward to reaching the other side one day, where I’ll have no problem loving my neighbors, and my mansion won’t have flies.
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