Courage to love

The thing about humans is that in order to understand one another, we must sacrifice a bit of ourselves. It’s difficult to empathize because to do so is to reject the most self-protective part of our nature. To love is to be vulnerable and vulnerability is a dangerous thing.

I get that.

You want to know what hurts the most in my life right now? It’s that I’m misunderstood. It’s that the people who live below us suffer because of the noise we make and there’s nothing I can do about it. The noise we make is our living. It’s the age of our children who stomp and scream when they’re frustrated because they’re still learning how to be alive. It’s the heavy feet of our boys when they chase each other down the hall, giggling. It’s my two-year-old who has no concept of “inside voice.”

And yet.

When I put my toddler down for naptime this afternoon, he turned to me and said, “Shhhh! The neighbors are sleeping!” And I know he said it because I say it All. The. Time.

Be quiet!

Don’t run!

You KNOW better than that!

I alternate from making a game of it: “Who can be the quietest? Who can walk on their tiptoes?” to “DID I JUST HEAR YOU STOMP? GET IN THE TIME OUT CHAIR NOW!!!!”

I lose my cool. All the time. All over this issue. This misunderstanding. These people who I may have been friends with, I sometimes think, if we’d met some other way. These people who may have cared about my kids, who may have taken the time to know them and love them, in a different context.

But life happens in our homes. And hearing that life above your head? The giggling and the playing, the singing and dancing, the yelling and tantrums (both mine and theirs), you can only understand a shadow of what is really taking place. We have other senses for a reason. The noise we make has become for them these words: Rude, spoiled, careless, inconsiderate, irresponsible.

And I struggle to bear the burden of being those things to someone else. It weighs heavy in me. The fear of this reality is not something I can shake. It binds me up. It winds into a tight ball of panic in my gut. And that anxiety hurts the people around me.

I don’t know how to explain this to you. What I’m trying to say is that we are not inconsiderate. We are a family trying to live in a city. But I see it. I understand how they feel our rudeness, our callousness. I understand how the constant slamming of feet on the ceiling would be excruciating to live with.

*

I read Jesus’ words about loving your neighbor and I wonder how to love someone who won’t receive my love. How to love someone whose hostility frightens me. Someone who believes my kids are wild and I’m the mother who can’t control them.

I don’t know. But I want to. There’s a reason Jesus said to pray for our enemies. And there’s a reason enemies become enemies in the first place. We only hear each other’s lives. We don’t see those lives. We don’t know the whole truth of one another’s reality, the personality behind the boy who stomps when he’s angry, or the toddler who cries in the night because his ear hurts. We fill in the sounds with narratives that we manufacture to fit our own perceptions. And then we all suffer for it.

*

The boys are are in the sunshine drawing on the sidewalk and riding bikes. I grab the broom to sweep our side of the porch. Subconsciously, I draw an invisible line in the porch and sweep my own dirt. Then I scoop it up and toss it in a trash can.

Brooksie is yelling, “Wook at me, Mama! Wook at me!”

Look. See me.

That’s what I think as I remember the pharisee’s words I found in scripture last week: “Who is my neighbor?

Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to see another human–in all their brokenness, in all their need–to love that person, even if it goes unnoticed, unappreciated?

I take the broom to their side of the porch. I shake out their front door mat. I sweep and gather all the dirt. This is all I can do. This is as far I go. And then I pray to see them, not simply hear and fill in my own narrative.

I pray for the courage to love.

 

 

Photo Credit: The Wandering Angel on Flickr

  • Jessica Stock

    Oh, I am so with you on this. I live with this terrible feeling that our neighbors dislike us and it is because our kids are so loud and the three years we have lived here has been so so crazy and I know I have failed too and I just don’t know why my kids are such screamers or how to help the situation. Ugh. It is so impossible and yes like you said, it’s not the whole story! Somehow just reading someone else experiencing it too makes me feel better. The courage to love. Yes. Always love your blog.

    • michaboyett

      Jessica, thanks for telling me about your situation. It’s so hard. In some ways, I think it’s good for my kids to be aware of other people and learn to control themselves for the sake of others. But that can’t happen all the time. And it shouldn’t. Kids should be allowed to scream and stomp and play in their homes because it’s the place where they are safe to be themselves. And that’s where I have to watch myself to make sure I’m not worrying about what other people think at the expense of my kids’ comfort in their own home. This is their childhood after all. But it’s such a difficult line to know how to draw.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    This is so brave and beautiful, Micha. It can be so frustrating to live with (or near) others – but we all must do what we can do, to live at peace with them. Thanks for your vulnerability here.

    • michaboyett

      Thanks for the compassion, Katie. I’m always grateful to see you here…

  • Jeannie

    This really touched me. We never anticipate what the big challenge of love is going to be in our lives — or how hard it can be. I appreciate your honesty.

    • michaboyett

      Thank you so much, Jeannie.

  • pastordt

    Ah, Micha. This is hard. So very hard. And I’m more sorry for it than I can say. Praying for you as you struggle to find your way – to honor your little boys for being exactly that. . . little boys. And to honor your neighbors, even when they’re impossible to please. Sounds like one of those awful, damned if you do/damned if you don’t kind of detentes. Ick. Hoping you can find a way through, maybe even a way out. . .

    • michaboyett

      Thank you, Diana. It’s really hard. But there are a lot of families in this situation who are stuck and don’t have options. I’m so grateful to have a husband who recognizes how hard this has been for me. I’m also grateful for the possibility of moving. We can find another place. (And I’m hope we do!) Thanks for your compassion and kindness…

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    This is such a tough one. I firmly believe that if you choose to live somewhere with shared walls, you also choose to live with shared walls. Of course, there’s a limit to that. I reserve the right to call my neighbors if their party is keeping me from sleep at 1 am. But the rest of it, they hear me and I hear them and if it’s ever annoying, I turn on a noise machine or let the TV drown it out for awhile. I don’t understand people who can’t extend grace in these situations but I am moved by your response.

  • MathMom

    Take them some cookies.

  • Colinda M. Cole-French

    Oh. That is painful and so poignant how the criticism and feeling misunderstood communicates itself to our children. in my neighborhood in vietnam, everyone is supposed to sweep the alley in front of their house and i often hear my neighbors talk about me not sweeping enough. same dynamic. and then i sweep to prove them wrong but spend the whole time needing to realign my heart to sweep in love, not anger and condemnation or something. i’m so glad you swept their side, i hope some mighty something in the heavenlies is accomplished in such a simple choice.

  • http://annieathome.com/ Annie Barnett

    I hear you. Courage to love – I’ve never even thought to pray for that, but I can think of some places I need it dearly. So good, Micha.


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