Winning Cranky Neighbors

by Ruby Roth
© Copyright 1993

"Be ye kind to one another, be ye kind," sang Sara as she played church with her dolls.

Mother smiled as she listened to the happy, lilting voice. The little chorus brought an incident to Mother's mind from the week before and her smile dimmed a little as she recalled.

They were visiting Grandpa's in town. It was such a lovely summer day and five-year-old Jon was out trying to ride Grandpa's old scooter. Sara rode a bike that Grandpa kept for entertaining children who came to visit. Happy shouts echoed on the summer breeze as the two children rode up and down the sidewalk, then up the driveway and back.

But what was that? Mother's heart froze as she heard angry shouts from the neighbors' house next door to Grandpa's. Father went quickly to the window to see if he could see the problem. There stood Sara, her small face pale, one hand waving as though she were trying to explain something to the angry neighbor man and his angrier wife. At the same instant Jon burst through the door and dropped into a chair, his face registering guilt and fright all at once.

"What happened, Son?" Father asked with concern. They all listened as Jon tearfully explained how he had been riding along and had crashed into one of the neighbors' bushes along the sidewalk.

Grandpa quickly stepped outside to try to help the neighbor man understand, while Father talked to Jon about what he should do. "You will need to tell the people you're sorry, Son," said Father kindly. "And you will need to give the people your money to pay for the bush your ruined."

Just then Sara appeared sobbing as though her little heart was broken. "Tell me about it, Dear," said Mother, lifting Sara onto her lap. Grandma pulled her chair close and together they listened to Sara's version of the accident. "I didn't know what to say to the neighbors. I didn't want them to be mad at Jon so I tried to help them understand, but they just acted awful and said ugly things to me. I even told them I'd pay for a new bush," finished Sara, her voice choked with sobs again. "The lady just stomped away... Oh, I don't like her, Mother! The man was kinder." Sara looked up at Mother with sad eyes. "What can we do?"

"Well," said Mother. "Father is talking with Jon about it and I'm sure he'll figure it out. But you have something to do also, Sara."

"What more can I do, Mother?" asked Sara.

"You need to ask Jesus to help you love those neighbors. Let's read in Matthew 5." Mother opened her Bible. "Here it is, and Jesus said it. 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them....'" Mother paused. "Only Jesus can help us love people who are unlovely. Want to ask Him to help you try, Sara?"

Sara nodded. "Maybe I can take cookies over, could I, Mother?"

"That's a fine idea, Sara," agreed Mother. "We'll make some this afternoon."

Grandpa stepped into the room again. His face as sober and he shook his head. "Poor people. They surely do need Jesus."

Father and Jon looked up from their corner of the room. "What did the man say?" asked Jon fearfully.

"Well, he doesn't like it that his bush is broken, but he didn't act too bad. The lady is worse to get along with. She doesn't seem to love anyone."

"Well, Jon," said Father. "Shall we go make things right and get it over with?"

"Do I have to go?" asked Jon, ready to cry again.

"Yes," said Father firmly. "I will go with you, but you must talk and tell them you're sorry and give them your money if they'll take it. How much do you have at home?"

"A five-dollar bill that I got for my birthday," answered Jon.

"OK," said Father. "I'll loan you five dollars and you can pay me back at home."

Jon clung tightly to Father's hand as they crossed the yard to the neighbors' house. He was glad to have Father go with him.

"Ding, dong." Jon could hear the doorbell echo inside the house. His breath quickened as he heard footsteps coming. What would he say? Would it be the lady or the man answering the door? Oh, he did so hope it would be the man!

Then the door was opening and Jon looked up to see the neighbor man standing there.

"I...I...I'm sorry I ruined your bush," Jon stammered. "'s five dollars to help buy a new one." Then he turned and hid his face in Father's pant leg. He didn't know what the man might say.

"Oh, that's OK," he heard the neighbor man saying. "You just keep your money. My wife is pretty upset, but she'll get over it."

"We will be glad to replace the bush," said Father.

"No," said the neighbor man. "It's all right."

After a short silence, Father said, "Well, we want to make things right because we love the Lord."

"Yes, yes, of course," said the neighbor man. He didn't want to hear about that.

"OK," said Father. "Thank you for forgiving my son." And the two headed back for Grandpas.

"Don't you feel better, Jon?" asked Father.

"Oh yes!" exclaimed Jon. "I just feel like running and jumping and shouting." And so saying, he ran and took a flying leap up the steps to Grandpa's house.

Several years later, Sara and Jon's family moved to Grandpa's house in town. They were a little afraid of the neighbors, but they learned to be kind and to show love anyhow. Now they are friends.

Remember, children, it pays to be kind and obey God's Word.

Based on a true happening

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