A little while back, I was working on an outdoor project in my backyard. You see, my property abuts a small 6 hole golf course, and every spring the snow that melts from that golf course is funneled through my yard. There is a very long ditch that’s been carved out that begins in the back, next to the golf course, and runs all the way through the side yard until it meets with the road in the front. The water runs through a culvert underneath my driveway and then down the street. I have lived in my house for just about 20 years now, and every year the drainage ditch gets wider and wider due to erosion. So this year I took it upon myself to fix the problem.
I have been digging up (and moving) large rocks in my yard to line the sides of the ditch. I also lined the bottom with smaller rocks and gravel. I was getting closer and closer to having enough large rocks to finish the job when I realized I was running low. I had talked to the maintenance manager for the golf course a couple years back after the border lines were professionally surveyed who said I could use a small corner of property in the back where my yard meets the gold course if I so desired. He said I could let my kids play there if I wanted to because they were not going to use it. It was just a small wooded area. Nothing special. I told him thanks but no thanks and said I would only use what was actually my property. But I remembered our conversation this year when I ran out of rocks. Since I was given permission to use the land, I went into the woods and dug up a few larger rocks to complete my project. That’s when I heard a voice from behind me.
“So whatcha’ doing?”
I turned and saw my neighbor whom I have never spoken with. She is an older, retired woman who mostly keeps to herself. Every now and then I see her out walking her dog, but that’s it.
“I’m digging some rocks to line my ditch to keep my yard from getting destroyed by the runoff each spring. Years ago, I was told that the maintenance people would take care of the problem since it was caused by their design, but they never did. So I am fixing it myself. I’m tired of my yard getting ruined from the water.”
“Oh, so that’s what you’re doing?”
She proceeded to make some awkward small talk which ended with a rather disturbing “I see your children have a lot of fun with that treehouse you built for them. I watch them from my deck window.” She was then was on her way. I was left feeling a bit irritated. No, I was angry. Who was this person to question what I was doing when it had nothing to do with her? I was out trying to do the right thing and fix a problem that someone years ago had promised to fix and then left me hanging. Now I have a woman who has never once spoken to me talking to me to see what I was doing because she was watching me while I worked and felt it was her place to confront me. Not only that, admitting that she watched my children playing from her window which I still find creepy.
Here’s what really bothers me about the encounter. She said to me during the course of our brief conversation, “We were blessed with a mild winter.” Yes, she said blessed. She also called New Hampshire “God’s country.” Now that would lead me to believe she has some religious beliefs. Beliefs which I used to hold myself. Beliefs which made me step out where I shouldn’t have and infringe upon someone else’s views. As much as I hate to admit it, when I was a believer, I was this old woman.
When my neighbor barged her way into my yard project, she was sticking her nose into my business with the assumption I was doing something wrong. She felt it was her duty, as someone who watches through the trees, to ask me what I was doing to make sure I was doing the right thing. I felt angry. I felt annoyed. I felt violated. Yet I used to do the same thing. Every time I stepped out and preached my Christian beliefs to anyone whose views were different from my own, I was this lady. Every time I told my brother I was praying for him because of a lifestyle choice I disagreed with, I was this lady. Every time I watched people from behind my Bible and judged the world, I was this lady who hides in her house watching my children play.
I now see that this lady was wrong. What I do on my side of the property line is my business. Even if she is curious and wondering what I am doing, it is not her place to confront me with her own views or judgmental questioning. I wasn’t digging on her land. I was doing what I had permission to do and for the purpose of completing a job that others had promised to do years ago. Still, she butted in and made her presence known with raised eyebrows and an accusatory tone. She was wrong. I was wrong.
Whenever you see someone doing or saying something you don’t agree with or are a little leery of, take a deep breath, then step back and ask yourself, “is this any of my business?” Judging people based on what a book says is not only wrong, it’s absurd. What others do in this life is their business. Unless it infringes upon your right to live a happy life yourself, let it be. You can have your opinions and your deeply held beliefs, but they need to be kept to yourselves. It is not your place to tell others how to live or question their motives. You know, that whole “judge not, lest ye be judged” thing?
The moral of the story is mind your own damn business. What others do is not your concern unless it affects you in a negative way. Same sex marriage does not infringe upon your rights to have a “traditional” marriage. What people wear, listen to or watch has nothing to do with you and what you decide you want to wear, listen to or watch. Your views are fine…for you. What others determine is right for them is also fine…and legitimate. What is right for one is not right for all and we need to stop acting like it is our right to enforce such rules.
Stop being nosy neighbors and worrying about what others are doing. Otherwise you create an uncomfortable situation where lines are drawn and fences go up. How exactly is it “loving thy neighbor” to assume that everyone different from you is wrong?