Our family follows an uplifting routine on Sundays, one borne from a combination of New Testament instruction and cultural expediency. We assemble with our brethren for Bible study once and worship services twice.
The Blizzard of 2016 disrupted that practice this week, but life taught us a couple of spiritual lessons just the same: 1) It’s easy to lose heart in doing good (Gal. 6:9-10) when a cantankerous neighbor maligns you for it; and 2) it’s extremely hard to “bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:28) when you’re in the moment.
The good deed in question involved a lot of heavy lifting. The elderly lady who lives next door – I’ll call her Ruth – has a driveway that is about 40 feet long. She parked her car in the garage to keep it out of the snow but needed to be dug out by Tuesday.
Ruth wasn’t up to the task of moving that much snow, and I hated to see her pay a blizzard premium to have someone else do it. If our family couldn’t worship, serving a neighbor struck me as a good alternative for glorifying God on the Lord’s Day.
Powered by the snow blower I bought on an auction whim last summer, I cleared part of our own driveway and the public sidewalk in front of both houses relatively quickly. I also moved the mountain of snow the city’s trucks had plowed in front of our driveway. Then I turned my focus toward the Herculean task before me.
The white stuff was at least two feet deep throughout Ruth’s driveway and had drifted to nearly three feet in spots. My snow blower is a smaller model, so I had to use a shovel to bust the snow into chunks that it could handle without stalling.
The positioning of the driveway posed a challenge, too. Much of it abutted Ruth’s house to the left and the driveway and yard of her other neighbor – I’ll call her Jezebel – to the right.
I was able to blow all of the snow into Ruth’s yard for the first 10 feet or so of driveway. But beyond that point, I had to shoot the snow to the right – just past the back of Jezebel’s car and driveway so the snow didn’t further block her exit path.
That’s when our good deed went bad. Jezebel, who ironically lives in a church building turned home/art studio, pounded on her window, shook her head and waved her arms at me. I imagined her yelling, “Get that snow off my lawn!”
I thought Jezebel was being unkind but did my best to oblige her, turning the chute of the blower a few notches to keep the snow as close to the property line as possible. I even blew some snow against Ruth’s house, piling a narrow strip as high as possible while still leaving room for her to back out her car.
I thought I had found a reasonable compromise because I didn’t hear from Jezebel again. But she just decided to gripe at my wife instead. When Jezebel insisted that I was being intentionally disrespectful – even though we hadn’t actually spoken – my mild-mannered wife, Kimberly, responded with a sharp rebuke.
I’m tempted to dedicate the rest of this post to Jezebel’s nasty attitude, but mine was just as bad after the confrontation. I resented her for making me feel bad about doing something good. And I complained so much that our children, who helped me clear Ruth’s driveway, had to fight the urge (not always successfully) to toss snow into Jezebel’s yard. Way to set the example, Dad!
The good news is that God gave me a better half. Kimberly has an amazing ability to express righteous anger without holding a grudge. She didn’t plot revenge after scolding our neighbor; she started thinking of ways we could be kind to her, too.
As a result of the whole incident, these words of Jesus have been bouncing around my mind all week: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33).
I obviously needed the reminder, and I’m glad a grouchy neighbor gave it to me. Now I need to do something good for her – without expecting anything in return.