We got home, and they were gone.
While we were away on our 2-week vacation, our suffering neighbours renting the house next door, had packed up and moved away. Upon arriving home, several other neighbours that we ran into were abuzz
with the news, and inevitably exclaiming how relieved they were and how happy we must be now that they were gone.
For me, there wasn't any feeling of relief. Instead, I was a little sad.
When they first moved in about
3 years ago, the father, although a little rough around the edges, was relatively chatty and upbeat, enthusiastically introducing himself. However, not long after, the family dynamics became apparent... there was incredible verbal abuse by the father, possible
physical abuse, and mostly fear and cowering by the mother, the two boys (around 12 and 14), the girl (around 8), and the dog.
Over time, one relative and some other kids moved in and out, the father moved out, a boyfriend moved in and
out and back in again, another dog moved in, the home became full of loud and violent behaviours and addiction, the house and property fell into complete disrepair... broken windows and doors, graffiti and gang tagging on the walls, garbage and junk everywhere,
and there were occasional calls for the police and visits by social care workers. More recently as the boys grew into troubled and troubling teenagers, and dropped out of school, the home became a hangout for their fellow troubled friends. Our storybook on
this family is full.
There was INCREDIBLE suffering going on next door (as well as brief moments of laughter and kindness and love), and as much as I was sometimes an irritated recipient of their behaviours, and a "Gladys Kravitz" to their
ongoing drama, I also felt a great deal of love for them. I knew their suffering, just like my own past suffering, came from an innocent and very common misunderstanding about life, and I held hope for them to see something new.
we'd always say "Hello" to them when we could, we'd always shovel the snow on their sidewalk, we'd sometimes mow their lawn for them, and we'd drop off the occasional banana bread and care package on the holidays. We were never able to make much of a personal
connection with them, other than with a relative (who was fighting cancer) who stayed with them for about a year.
Being human, we didn't always live in a state of understanding and loving kindness for them. We would sometimes feel frustration
over the nuisance and destructive behaviours that would spill over into our lives and onto our property, and we would often be perplexed by their odd or inexplicable behaviours. And one time when one of the kids urgently asked to use our wifi to try to connect
via cell phone with their missing mother, in a bit of a fearful state, we said no.
And now they're gone... perhaps seen as a good thing in our neighbours' eyes, but in my eyes, a problem that our community still holds, simply moving to
a different location. Having a greater awareness of how we are all connected in so many complex and invisible ways, I know deeply how each one of us is intrinsically responsible for our greater community, whether the problems of it happen to be appearing next
door to us or not.
And with that awareness, my husband and I will keep on, as best as our humanity allows us in each changing and passing moment, to live in our community with love and understanding and support, and humbly accept our temporary
limitations whenever we don't. When our much loved neighbour sold his house several years ago, and it became a rental property that brought in a series of troubled and challenged families, we have ultimately been blessed with an abundance of experience, and
an incredible opportunity to learn and grow, and continue to learn to love without conditions.
I don't know who will be moving in next, and whether they will bring more joy or more suffering, but I do very much look forward to whatever
abundance of experiences and life lessons that we will be blessed with, no matter what.