When I was a boy, I clearly remember playing badminton with my dad in our little backyard, behind our mobile home in Rancho Cucamonga. In the middle of our fun time, the birdie inadvertently fluttered over our waist-high chain link fence and fell into our neighbor’s yard.
THAT neighbor’s yard!
She came out yelling and screaming of how us rotten kids were going to break her windows with our incessant rowdy play! (keep in mind, Dad and I were playing badminton… not kicking field goals).
I don’t remember how my dad reacted, but I remember the fear that ran through my 10-year-old heart.
Now, flash forward 30-some-odd years and I’m the dad with my 10-year-old son standing next to me as my rabid neighbor yells, screams, curses, gnashes her teeth and wails at me and my son because our basketball bounced onto her lawn.
What’s a dad to do?
My dad remembers back in those days in Cucamonga attempting to kindly wave to our neighbor as she drove by to appeal to her natural compulsion to wave back. But she was an oak. Determined beyond most people’s inherent niceties. She refused to wave, smile or show any ounce of kindness to my dad.
History indeed repeats itself. My neighbor even goes so far as distributing popsicles to some of the other kids on the block, but completely passes over my kids who are standing in the same huddle as the popsicle-sucking kids. All over a basketball that bounced into her lawn.
Should I erect a 12’ high fence to keep the balls off her grass? But then what happens when a ball sails 14’ in the air?
I know what I wanted to do. My devious mind came up with the plan to gather up every ball my family of four boys owns: every wiffle ball, soccer ball, tennis ball, golf ball, basketball, etc. and completely coat her grass with them overnight. That’ll show her!
But, with that strategy, we’d certainly be headed to a Hatfields & McCoys of my cul-de-sac situation – a never-ending duel of tit-for-tat.
So, thankfully, I married up.
It was my wife who brought sanity to the moment, when she offered a simple suggestion: Sometimes all we can do is pray.
The reality is that there’s nothing that we can do to make her a nicer person. But we can pray that God would massage and soften her heart. Because, in reality, she’s just as much of a sinner as any of us. None of us are any different. We all need God’s grace in our lives.
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