My blogging begins early today. Earlier this week a prominent member of our community passed away. He was a developer, a business man, and a philanthropist. To me he was one thing more, a neighbor.
Did I know him as a neighbor as far as going to cookouts together, or waiting at the bus stop with our kids? No. But by being his neighbor I learned a wonderful lesson about love and an important one about judgment.
I am ashamed to admit this next part, but I will because it’s an important part of the learning. When I first moved into this home 14 years ago I was still at the end of my righteous indignation phase. I was pretty good at it. And here I was living down the street from a developer that it seemed owned everything in town and who was responsible for Central Park and that horrendous eyesore the Central Park sign that blots out the sun. How could the word park be used for it when there used to be farm land there (and a golf course) and now there were parking lots and big box stores galore? Surely I had much fodder for my indignation! This is the part I’m not so proud of, I even thought of him as the Onceler from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
It took a long time for that attitude to shift in me. First, I became less righteous and more neutral. But it wasn’t until the last couple years that I actually began to see him as a neighbor. I walk by his home a lot in the mornings so I found he came into my mind frequently. As my morning walks became a form of meditation for me I began noticing how I walked past his home, what thoughts I was holding in mind as I did. I began thinking of him as a man, with a family and a heart. I began thinking of him as someone who was doing the best he could, just like the rest of us. I began remembering that we are not separate, that the separation had been in my own thoughts, in my own heart. It didn’t mean I had to agree with every choice he ever made, but it meant that I had to remember to begin from love no matter whether I agreed or not. I had to remember that I had no way of knowing what was in his heart as he made his choices. I could only know what was in my own heart as I made new ones in relation to him.
And so I did make new choices. I chose to radiate love every time I walked past his home. I surrounded it with that love as I walked by. It felt wonderful! I didn’t have to carry indignation with me on my walks and in my world. It only weighed me down. It was so much more joyful to carry love and let it flow freely from me, and that’s what I did every time I walked past his house.
It never occurred to me to wonder whether or not he really felt it, it just felt so good to give it. Then on Monday morning as I was walking past the house I felt this sense, this thought that reached me and said, Thank you, I do appreciate the love. It made me smile and I nodded toward the house and said, I’m glad.
A couple days later I heard that he had passed away. I stopped when I heard the news and wondered if he really had said thank you the other day, if maybe he had been in a state of grace at that moment and could genuinely feel the love I was sending. I’m glad to think our relationship ended with love. Rest in Peace Mr. Silver, thank you for the powerful lesson in love thy neighbor.