When I arrived home this evening after a long, hard day of being the cancer of American academia, I was gobsmacked to discover my next door neighbor was mowing my front lawn.
I'll call my neighbor "Dick" because that's how I have customarily referred to him. As in, "that Dick next door has erected a carport right on the property line" or "the Dick and his girlfriend kept me awake last night brawling" or (the worst), "the Dick's friend, who has been living in the trailer parked in his front yard for three months, has finally managed to kill the hedge with pee."
One afternoon Dick came barreling over to rage that my dogs were barking. Guilty as charged. But it was 2:00 on a weekday, and his dogs were barking too (well, howling, really, because they're huskies), so, so what? He was obviously inebriated, and just spoiling for a fight. In fact, he seemed mad enough to punch whatever was in his way which was, at the moment, me. I apologized profusely, promised to rectify the situation, and ever after had a paranoid fear of arousing his ire. But I kept my temper and bit my tongue. I even handed him some peonies from my garden on Mother's Day, perhaps hoping that I could kill him with kindness.
I was not alone in my distaste for Dick. My other neighbors mentioned he was a bit of a scammer. Apparently he had sold one a lemon car. Then he bragged about getting on disability due to a shoulder issue, which miraculously healed itself when he started taking special vitamins, which he then started to peddle around the neighborhood.
Dick, a self-professed "car addict," also had a habit of parking his dozen dilapidated vehicles all over the cul-de-sac, effectively leaving visitors to the neighborhood no place to park.
In other words, Dick became The Neighbor Everyone Loves to Hate.
Several months ago I complained to my fundy neighbors about him. "Don't worry," they assured me. "He's changed: he's found Jesus."
I wasn't impressed. Jailhouse conversions are a dime a dozen.
However, about a week later, Dick staggered over. At first, I was reluctant to open the door without anyone else in the house, but Dick was bearing a gift: an acrylic sink that he had gotten from the Home Depot remainder bin. "I thought maybe you could use this," he offered. I have no idea why Dick thought I needed a sink (if anyone wants one, it's still in its box in the hall) but I appreciated the weird gesture. It suggested he was declaring some kind of truce, at least.
Then tonight, I found him mowing my lawn. Not knowing what to make of this mysterious development in our relationship, I took my time pulling into the driveway and unloading my car. In fact, I had to look at him a while to make sure it really was Dick, and not some random stranger performing a random act of kindness.
"Well, thanks!" I approached warily. "What's going on?"
"I've decided to Do or Say One Nice Thing every day," Dick explained.
"What made you decide to do that?" I asked.
"I'm trying to be a better man," Dick confided. (Wasn't that the name of a country western song?)
Later I told my partner about this miracle.
"Great!" she said. "Maybe he'll mow the back lawn tomorrow."
I'm not sure why I think this story is relevant to the theme of this blog, except that I do believe that even the most hateful, angry people can change for the better. Sometimes it takes a visit from the Ghosts of Past, Present, & Future. Sometimes is takes being Born Again. And sometimes people just figure it out for themselves. It's all good.