“Did you put garbage out this morning?” Her voice is laden with apology—an embarrassed lilt that has me picturing her against her kitchen cabinets, elbow resting on the counter, fingertips pressed to her forehead like one might do to dissuade a headache.
“No…” I say, not sure where this is going. “I put out my recycling though.”
“Oh. Oh, okay. Good.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Um. Well. We think Frank’s* been leaving his trash here and the last few weeks it’s been spread all over the yard. Randy got so mad he gathered it all up and dumped it right back on Frank’s property—all over the driveway and the field.”
“Oh my goodness! You’re sure it wasn’t recycling?” I ask because I think it’s entirely possible some creature had torn into my bag and spread it around and the idea of Frank paying for my negligence is just terrible.
“No. It was definitely garbage.”
I have a soft spot for Frank. When I was little he used to give me rides in his tractor. We rarely speak but always wave in a friendly way when we pass on our little country road. He’s always seemed like a kind man. I have no idea why he’s taken to dumping trash at Marion and Randy’s. (Perhaps he worries about the garbage truck stopping during the winter in the middle of the hill where his driveway sits.)
I have always considered our little piece of the county a peaceful, compatible community and I’m shocked to find myself in the middle of a neighborly feud—silly as it may be.
Of course, it really has nothing to do with me but it does cause me to pause and wonder: how would I respond if it was my yard covered in a neighbors trash?
Or, to be more personal, how do I respond when I get dumped on?
The simple truth is this: we all get dumped on every single day. And every day we are faced with countless opportunities to dump right back on whoever offended us.
Maybe the barista made your coffee wrong. Maybe someone pushed their way in front of you at the bank. Maybe your husband didn’t notice your new haircut or your wife didn’t give you that phone message on time.
Getting mad is easy.
We can all be like Randy, gathering up the trash and throwing it back at the offender. Or, we can take the road less traveled. We can be like Jesus and respond in kindness. We can pick up the garbage. We can seek context and clarity. We can walk up to our neighbor and explain how their action made us feel and together come to a compromise.
Leviticus 19:18 says:
Don’t seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love can be hard. It can seem unnatural and it’s certainly not the way of the world.
We are called to be in the world but not of it. Imagine the light you carry when you tip the barista instead of berating him, or when you smile at the person in the bank instead of rolling your eyes. Small choices can have massive impact.
How are you going to shine the light of Jesus this weekend?
*names have been changed
Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she’s trying hard not to love. She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications. You can find her over at her own blog, alannarusnak.com