by Tom Pappas
As I drove out my long driveway I heard a power tool at the front of my neighbor’s property. I guessed that he was edging the grass parkway between the sidewalk and the street. (Parkway is what we call it in Lincoln, NE.) He was not edging, but in fact he was blowing the remaining leaves from winter from his property into the street. I did not like what I saw.
Here’s what went on within me. That’s so illegal. That’s so lazy. What does he think will happen to those leaves?
I came home a couple hours later to find this: Some of the leaves were back on his parkway and sidewalk (deserved). Lots of the leaves were on my driveway, because the direction of the 35 mph traffic whooshed them in the direction of our property. Lots of the leaves were past my driveway and in our rock garden, and lots were past the rock garden in the bed between the sidewalk and our front fence (all undeserved). Grrr.
I gathered tools: a rake, a broom, a wheel barrel, and my giant dustpan. While I collected my neighbor’s renegade leaves I was trying out my speech to him. THIS I would not let go.
In the midst of raking, sweeping and collecting, God somehow gave me the Luke passage where Jesus talks about being mistreated by your enemy. For the record, my neighbor is not my enemy, but I took to heart what I believe to be the nugget of Jesus’ message, and decided I would both turn the other cheek AND give him my coat by raking the 90’ of his parkway. (I coached high school baseball for 9 years and chalked the baseline from home to first enough times to know that distance by heart.)
While I raked, I put together a great script for my “heart to heart” with my neighbor.
TOM: I want to talk to you about leaves.
NEIGHBOR: What is it?
TOM: I got some Karma that was supposed to be yours the other day.
TOM: Last Wednesday when I drove out you were blowing leaves into the street and when I came back they were partly back on your parking but mostly in my driveway, Laurel’s rock garden and our front bed. I was shocked and angry that you did that. It’s illegal.
NEIGHBOR: I didn’t know. I’m sorry.
TOM: The good news is that I got to be in a Bible story.
NEIGHBOR: How’s that?
TOM: In Luke, Jesus said if your enemy takes your shirt, give him your coat. You’re not my enemy, but I decided to rake your parking.
NEIGHBOR: You didn’t have to do that.
TOM: I didn’t do it for you; I did it for me. The Bible works - I’m not mad anymore.
NEIGHBOR: Thank you
It turns out that in real life I said every one of my lines fairly closely to the way I wrote them above. My neighbor, who was not present at the rehearsal, did not. He did say he would not do it again.
Luke 6:27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously." The Message
Revenge is in our culture’s DNA. From my experience last week, I say revenge is a really sad option. It’s so tempting but I don’t see it melting the anger. I don’t see it putting closure on a simple dispute. Revenge doesn’t feel as good or right as letting Jesus’ teaching bring out the best in me. What a good choice it is to live generously. And I got to be in a Bible story!