I didn’t want to be outside in my bathrobe, sneakers and worn Old Navy cap, leashed to my Bichon, Duke, while he dumped in the bushes, but the fuzzy one demanded it. 9 PM on any January night is not a great time to be out, the wind howls and leaves my feet and hands fairly numb, but I live in a gated community with no private yard space so it’s a frequent necessity.
Sure I could’ve bundled up more, but when it comes to walking the dog after a long day of work, sometimes you just throw on what works. There’s always a chance you’ll freeze your butt off, and there’s always a chance you’ll run into some neighbor and feel like a fool. Tonight was one of those nights – a stranger stumbled upon me as he carried some takeout up to his unit and immediately stuck his finger in my face.
“You’re gonna pick that up right?”
I checked my robe for some baggies. Nothing. “Sure. I just need to go grab a bag.” I said as Duke huffed and helpfully squatted one more time for good measure.
“Well, you should have one already pal!”
The guy’s face became a little familiar to me. He was the new guy I’d seen move into the community a few weeks back. The one who had three chihuahuas running off leash in the communal courtyard.
The one I had nodded to and said “Yeah, you should probably leash those guys – community rules.”
This was his payback, I guess. You could see it in his eyes. “You’re that guy that bitches to people about leashing their dogs.” He snapped.
“Yeah, well maybe you should, you know, leash your dogs then.” I turned and pulled Duke out of the bushes. I was going to eat crow on this one, find a bag in my unit and come back to clean it up, probably under his watchful eye.
“You should leash your own dog!” He griped at me.
And I’d like to say I calmly diffused the situation but I didn’t, I snapped right back and told him to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. It wasn’t until I’d unhooked my dog in the safety of my living room that I realized I was wearing a “Love the 818” shirt my church had given me, under my robe. I had totally blown it. There was a chance to show some humility, grace and patience with someone and instead I wanted to tear into him, like he had ripped into me.
I thought back on my comments to him in the past – I had honestly meant no malice when I told him the community rules, they were just plain facts, but he felt attacked in HOW I said them. It was not done with any kind respect, it was not said in love.
It’s funny how you can live next to someone for long periods of time, share the same spaces, the same food, maybe even the same culture and background, and yet speak totally different languages. “I say potatoe, you say potato.“
It’s a problem mankind has dealt with for centuries, in fact, if we look back on Biblical history, its a problem that started with a King named Nimrod.
Old Nimmy ran a little kingdom you may have heard about – Ancient Babylon, in the land of Shinar (now modern day Iraq). And for a good portion of Nimmy’s reign (43 years according to the book of Jubilees) he built what would become the prototype for ziggurats the world over – we know it as the Tower of Babel.
And they began to build, and in the fourth week they made brick with fire, and the bricks served them for stone, and the clay with which they cemented them together was asphalt which comes out of the sea, and out of the fountains of water in the land of Shinar. And they built it: forty and three years were they building it; its breadth was 203 bricks, and the height [of a brick] was the third of one; its height amounted to 5433 cubits and 2 palms, and [the extent of one wall was] thirteen stades [and of the other thirty stades]
For those of you who are wondering, height-wise that equals about 2,484 meters or approximately 8,150 feet high. To give you some context of this, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (one of the tallest buildings in the world) is only 2, 716 feet high. The Tower was truly a marvel. While some biblical scholars argue the Tower of Babel was only a metaphor or lesson about the perils of human pride, I believe it actually existed. But whether it existed in the lands of Shinar or only in the mind of Josephus the Scholar who reported it several hundred years later – one aspect of the story remains consistent. God destroyed it and confused the people with languages so diverse, no common ground could be found between them.
Brick layers, who were once brothers and shared a common goal, now argued, misunderstood each other and eventually abandoned their aspirations. They somehow lost the skill of listening to each other.
Now, why would a loving God do such a thing? The Bible tells us it was due to Nimrod’s pride. King Nimrod was once favored by God, he was the grandson of Ham and the great grandson of Noah, and yet he fell from grace when he dedicated his work, not towards his creator but to himself. He stopped listening to God’s voice.
Maybe, in his infinite wisdom, God not only wanted us to put him above all else, he wanted humans to need each other, and pay more than lip service to each other in passing.
Maybe, we had to show through actions what words alone would not allow. Maybe we have to make an effort.
Thinking back on the confrontation with my neighbor, I realized we both had valid points, we were both right, but neither of us wanted to listen to what the other was saying.
Understanding others who you disagree with is never easy. You’ll almost never find consensus with everyone on every aspect of life, but if we don’t at least try to listen, really listen, and not just wait for our turn to talk – we’ll be like those brick layers at the Tower, confused, angry, and stymied in our efforts to achieve a better life.
So take the time to talk to your neighbors and find some common ground to build on, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Gay or Straight. Love them the way God commanded us to and maybe new conversations can occur.