PostHeaderIcon My Nasty Neighbors

By Jael Strong

Let me start by saying that for the most part I like my neighbors and get along well with them. Jackson doesn’t consider anybody a stranger and thinks of just about everyone as his buddy. I’m not the most outgoing person, but Jackson makes up for my inadequacies by tossing his football with the college kids down the street or chatting with the businessman who lives across the way. Jackson shovels walks, mows lawns, and even prepares food for random neighbors. He knows the elderly lady that walks her tiny pup by our house and the older gentleman that strides by with his pack of huge canines. It isn’t Smileytown, but things are fairly peaceful.

Enter stage left: my nasty neighbors. I can’t make the normal complaints. They aren’t particularly loud. They keep their yard tidy, much tidier than mine. They don’t borrow tools that they never return. They mind their own business most of the time. They seem to like Jackson, though they have a particular disdain for me that I can’t quite pinpoint (They have been heard complaining about me and they never say hello when we pass). They appear quite pleasant and unassuming, so what is my problem?

I could list a variety of things that bother me about these particular neighbors, but I must confess, at this point, I can’t make a fair analysis of them. My view is tainted and may never be objective again. The other day painted on their daughter’s car window were the words “F*** Peace.” I know we have freedom of speech in the United States of America, but why must offensive language be broadcasted for everyone to see? Why should such a negative message be promoted, supported, even viewed as a source of levity by this teenager’s parents? Why should my twelve-year-old child have to walk out of his house and see this in the morning?

I take this message on this car as a symbol. It speaks volumes. It betrays a lack of regard for the respectable members of our community and our children. It tells us that these people don’t care how they are viewed and do not care about acceptable standards of decorum. So, what can we do about neighbors who don’t care?

What we can do

We can stomp our feet and demand that this foul language be removed. We can berate the neighbors, tell our children that those people are no good. We can gossip and complain, but none of that will do any good. If you find your neighbor’s behavior unacceptable, here are some options:

  • Ignore it. This was hard for me to do, but it is what I did and it was successful. I decided that I wasn’t going to talk about the foul message with Jackson unless he brought it up. Miraculously, he must have missed it because he never mentioned it. A few days after the message appeared, it disappeared and I never had to raise the red flag of war with the neighbors.
  • Find out if a law is being broken. Sometimes the offensive behavior of neighbors is actually illegal. In this case, you can let the law take care of it without getting yourself embroiled in combat.
  • Teach an object lesson. We don’t have to confront the neighbors to learn a lesson from bad behavior. We can show our kids how the negative actions of others affects those around them and hopefully drive home the point that we don’t want to be the perpetrators of such actions.
  • Be neighborly. I could be accused of being cowardly because I didn’t take this step. When a neighbor’s actions are disturbing to us, we can confront them in a non-combative manner, perhaps winning them over with a sincere compliment or thoughtful gift before we request that certain actions cease.

In any case, disturbing deeds may persist and we may have to devise new and ingenious ways of handling the situations. Along the way, we may learn new coping techniques and hopefully impress upon our children the need to display respect through our language and actions. Perhaps, as we become pros at handling these socially complicated situations, our children will also develop the ability to deal positively and constructively with the neighbors without being offensive.

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