Unless you’re extremely lucky, I’m guessing that most people have had neighbours at some point in their lives. If you’re lucky, they’ve been good neighbours; people that you can call upon in a time of need. If you’re like me, you’ve had not just one, but two sets of bad neighbours (and this isn’t counting the heroin addict that I lived next door to for three months).
The first lot of neighbours were racist. I know it sounds crazy, seeing as my ‘ethnic background’ is ‘white British’, but because my parents are from England originally, they believed that we had no right being in Wales. They used to scream at us to “Go back to your own country”, despite the fact that I was born and raised in Wales, and speak the language fluently (something that neither of them did). They tried to hit my Dad, and called my Mum names that I will not repeat on here, or anywhere else. They threatened me, telling me to ‘watch your back when you’re walking to the bus stop’.
Eventually, we moved house because we couldn’t take the abuse, and feeling like a prisoner in our own home any longer. The house we moved to is a mid-terraced house. We have been here for sixteen years, and have had good neighbours that whole time, up until June last year, when our old neighbour on one side, finally sold his house, to a ‘charming gentleman’ who has been nicknamed “The Termite”, largely down to his propensity to drill, and hammer, and generally ‘diy’ almost every surface, wall and beam in the house. For the first two months, he (and his wife, though it’s quite clear that she has very little say in anything at all) were nice; friendly, even.
This didn’t last. I think he worked out very early on that he had made a mistake and rushed into buying the house on a whim, only to discover that it was the Welsh version of “The Money Pit”. One of the things that he didn’t realise when he bought the house, was that we have a right of way across his garden to access the rear of our property.
One September afternoon, he decided to take a stand against us using it, and took it upon himself to try and stop me from using the right of way. Normally, I would have given in and backed down, and I don’t really know why I didn’t this time, but it was like something snapped inside me and I wasn’t going to be treated like this by yet another set of neighbours, so I stood my ground, even when he barged into me and assaulted me. It ended up with me having to call the police, and going to hospital to get it logged on record, even though I hadn’t any injuries. Luckily, and I don’t know why I did this really… call it intuition, or God’s prompting, but I had a feeling that he was going to start something that day, so I had my phone videoing.
A couple of days later, the police visited me to take a statement, and then issued him with a Public Infringement Notice, and told him that if it happened again, then he would be prosecuted. Several months after that event, he tried to start things again, but when questioned, decided to try and make me feel sorry for him when he said “I’ve been on this earth 63 years, and I’ve never been in trouble with the police, and now I’ve got a criminal record” I responded, telling him that this wasn’t my fault that he lost his temper, and that how he treated me was totally unacceptable. I’ve never stood up to someone like that before, and he actually turned round and apologised.
Since then, there have been no problems, simply a thinly veiled hostility. However, this weekend, began the saga of ‘gate gate’. He decided to put up an eight foot gate across his driveway. This is a solid gate, and he’s even put a padlock on it! Now, bear in mind that we don’t live in London, or Manchester, or even a city. The crime rate here is relatively low. There is no need for such security measures, and it has sparked several in jokes between myself and my family and friends, including “If he starts to build a moat, I’m getting rubber duckies to put in it”.
This morning, he threw a key through our post box. He didn’t bother to knock on the door, even though we were clearly at home. He hasn’t explained to us how we are supposed to open this gate when we’re on the other side. This logistical issue seems to have evaded him! So, we are currently facing possible legal action.
In all this, the Bible verse about loving your neighbour keeps coming into my head. It’s one I’m really struggling with. The truth is, I don’t wish him ill. I wish that he’d move away, but I don’t wish him any pain or suffering, but I don’t love him. I can’t. I know it makes me a poor Christian, but after how he has treated us, while I can forgive, I cannot like him, nor love him. I would help him if he was in need, but I can’t go out of my way in any other circumstance.
Maybe this shows how far I am from being a good Christian. It’s definitely something that I’m going to need to pray about. All I know for sure is that I can’t, and won’t be a doormat when it comes to this. I refuse to be the same victim that I was sixteen years ago.
I have learned from those experiences and I’m stronger now, for them.