Ye have heard that it hath been said,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you,
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you,
and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of Your Father
which is in heaven:
for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
— Matthew 5:43-45
She is a blonde Christian from Nebraska, an old friend of mine. I guarantee she doesn’t have a prejudiced molecule in her body.
He is a Muslim, from Egypt. He moved in next door to her quite a few years ago, shortly after 9/11.
She was married to a doctor who jilted her for an 18-year-old. She moved with their four teenagers to a Southern state, to a nice house with a swimming pool on a lake – two big dogs, the whole nine yards.
Her neighbor man, the Muslim fellow, also is a doctor. He’s a very strict family man who doesn’t allow his wife and kids to go out in their own yard to hang out or play, nor to speak to anyone not of their own religion. They all are averse to, if not afraid of, animals. Apparently, he will try to harm dogs that walk on the street or sidewalk adjacent to his property, even if they are on a leash.
The fun, blonde, dog-loving divorcee living next door to the serious, arch-conservative Muslim . . . it’s a multicultural soap opera that’s instructive for us all.
“I don’t hate my neighbors. Not at all!” she says. “I just wish they didn’t hate all of us.”
Let’s call the Nebraskan “Mollie.” She has a great figure, and enjoys wearing her swimming suit to lay out in her own back yard, enjoying her pool and the lake.
In contrast, the neighbor man – “Doc” – and his family all wear traditional Muslim garb, with females covered from head to toe. The sight of Mollie outside in her swimming suit, even in her own back yard, was so offensive to Doc that he would stand on the lot line and scowl at her. She wound up having to plant tall shrubbery to protect her privacy.
The contrasts are nearly endless. Mollie has always been the life of the party, enjoying an active social life now that her four children are launched from her home. She’s free to travel and do the things she wants, including raising ducklings to release each year onto the huge neighborhood lake.
Doc, on the other hand, scowls a lot, always has drama going on, and once actually stomped onto her property and KICKED, STOMPED and KILLED a couple of the ducklings in front of her and a bunch of her friends.
It was her annual “release party.” Doc and family had been invited, but didn’t come. All of the other neighbors and friends were gathered, with wine and spirits, for a cookout and good times, the highlight of which was watching the ducklings take their first swim in their new home . . . the lake.
To this day, she doesn’t know what set him off. Maybe it was the sight of alcohol being consumed at the party, even though it was on her property. But Doc came over and began kicking the ducks all over the yard, killing a couple of them. Men had to restrain him and escort him home.
A duck-stomping Muslim? It’s not exactly the image of a scary, radical jihadist that most of us fear. But still, Mollie says that for some reason, he “hates” her and all other Americans, doesn’t care about our laws, and could give a hoot about our social conventions.
It’s a drain on her, trying to get along with him, and to keep smiling, though always wondering if the day would bring new stress and conflict from the next-door neighbors.
And so it goes for these two completely different people, living side by side. Bad luck? A trial to be survived? Nope. Here’s what I think: there’s a Neighborhood Social Director Up In the Sky using these contrasts to good advantage, spiritually – using her patient, humorous, loving good heart to “friend” him and his whole family into the Kingdom of God.
She feels like she’s a misunderstood, innocent Dennis the Menace, and he’s a grumpy, Muslim Mr. Wilson. I think there’s power in that contrast. Who would want to be more like her? Everyone. Who would want to be more like him? No one, as far as I can see.
Within one week of his family moving in, issues erupted. The first one was totally understandable: some idiots vandalized the Muslim family’s house with hot-pink spray paint. It was despicable, and a big shock to her that it had happened right in her own neighborhood. However, this WAS soon after 9/11, and she said the house was in pretty dire need of repainting, anyway. But the way he marched right over to her house and leaned on the doorbell, then suspiciously asked her if she knew anything about the vandalism, she immediately was put on the defensive, as if he thought SHE had done it. She sputtered, “No, I’m so sorry, and it’s terrible that this happened to you. I know nothing, but I will immediately tell you and the police if I find out.” She hoped that was the end of it; he didn’t seem to believe her.
Unfortunately, Doc either didn’t know about the neighborhood covenants – rules guarding the character of this high-end neighborhood – or chose to ignore them, because he had the house repainted . . . but . . . he chose a color that was unacceptable according to the covenants. Property owners are supposed to run their color choices by the homeowners’ association board, and he didn’t. So a repaint was ordered. It was a bad entrée into the neighborhood all ‘round.
Then things went from bad to worse. Doc decided to change the landscaping of his property. Mollie said he was going for the “Egyptian palace” look. Again, an issue arose with homeowners’ association and county rules. Doc had ordered plants that were not allowed in that neighborhood for various reasons – chiefly agricultural; nothing to do with discrimination. They had to come out, and he was furious. But not only that, he had also planted plants in the yards of his two neighbors, violating their lot lines.
Those plants had to be taken out, too, and sod replaced. Again, Doc made Mollie feel as though she was the one at fault, not him. He scolded her that in Egypt, everybody “shares” – what’s mine is yours – and there are no borders or boundaries between neighbors. It made her feel like she was doing something wrong, to stand up for her own private property rights and insist that he look at the survey that came with the house to honor the lot line in the future.
The next issue began when Doc’s wife was learning how to drive. She would drive on Mollie’s lawn and break the automatic sprinkling system. Mollie, not wanting to make a fuss, would hire her lawn people to fix it, just to have it happen again and again. One time, the car rolled into Mollie’s bushes and ruined them.
Finally, she summoned her nerve and went next door to politely explain to them the issue and the expenses she was incurring. They made no offer to reimburse her, but at least the wife began to back out on the pavement . . . only then she started to hit the streetlight and break the main water line to Mollie’s house. The first time, Mollie was out of town when it happened, and came home to a mess. It happened two more times until the neighbor lady finally got the hang of driving.
But Mollie still couldn’t relax. Doc decided to take his family back to Egypt that summer for the break. How did Mollie find out about their plans? She was outside, and Doc came over and TOLD her – not ASKED her, but TOLD her – that she was going to take care of his swimming pool for him while they were gone for three months.
She couldn’t help herself: she did an elaborate double take, smiled in obvious disbelief, and asked, “What?”
He again DEMANDED that she take care of his pool, and his lawn, too. He proceeded to tell her that this was her “obligation” to him, as she was female and “subservient” to him.
He was dead serious. Mollie jokes now, “Not a good choice of words to use with an American woman!”
She kept her temper, though. She just told him she would give him the name and number of her pool company and that maybe he could contact them.
He replied, loudly, “NO!” and told her she was to do it.
Silently, Mollie turned away from him and walked back into her home.
She says now, “That’s when the trouble really began. In his culture, a woman NEVER turns her back to a man. But I say, hey! I’m not living in his culture. I’m living here . . . in the USA. And so is he! If he doesn’t like the way we are, then go back to Egypt.”
She is sad that he apparently expects others to adapt to him, but doesn’t budge an inch their way in return. “We all need to be flexible and truly try to understand one another,” Mollie says.
She does the only thing she can: she prays, daily, for Doc and his family . . . that they would try harder to live together in peace with people of Christian, Jewish and other faith backgrounds, “without battle.”
Mollie, you’re better than a good neighbor. You’re a good Christian . . . and the “duck” stops here.
All those who read this story, in memory of the stomped ducklings and in support of you, are asked to pray for your safety, and for the strength and peace of mind to see that God has placed you next door to that family for a reason. You are a wonderful person, and we see God’s plan in using you to interact with that family and teach them what America in general, and Christianity in particular, is all about.
Readers, let’s all pray that someday, the One Who is the neighbor of us all – the Lord Jesus Christ – will visit Doc and his family, and lead them in love to follow Him, and to be more like sunny Mollie, enjoying life and living with others in peace and joy.
And someday, may the neighborhood welcome wagon in heaven bring Doc and his family to live next door to Mollie’s mansion, and yours, and mine . . . with no dead ducks and no need for tall shrubbery . . . to live forever in peace and humor, harmony and love. †
By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Relationships | © 2020