The view from here

The crew of boys that often occupied the backyard space beneath our bathroom and bedroom windows has been gone for more than two weeks now. These guys were the source of a great deal of fear and vigilance on our parts as they were heavily involved in a variety of activities that made us nervous at best and often outright afraid.

Yesterday Doug came into the living room to report to me that there was a new group gathered out there, smoking pot and hanging out. Today I have been brought to the bathroom window on more than one occasion because of different noises I am hearing, and I have seen this new “crop” of young men.

I don’t know if they will prove harmless. I don’t know if they will keep us up at night, as the previous guys did, with yelling and breaking glass and the like. I don’t know who they are yet or how they relate to the owners of a house that seems to have some sort of revolving door occupancy.

It’s funny, really, to remember our first year here and how horribly annoyed we were by the irritating poodle that lived at that house. The poodle spent most of its time in that backyard area, directly beneath our bedroom window. We had a not-so-nice name for it, in fact, because of how extremely grating it’s high-pitched barks were, and how frequently we heard them throughout the night. The dog would seriously bark for more than an hour at a time, usually starting around 1am. I can remember many nights that first winter where we would finally drag ourselves into bed around midnight having just completed our homework for intensive Greek, only to have the poodle start in with the barking. We were not happy campers for our 8am class.

I remember talking one day with the young boy who lived at the poodle’s house about the dog–we were all hanging out on the street corner after some crime had been committed that had brought many of us out of our houses, and we ended up discussing the annoying dog. I remember him saying to me: “Yeah, I don’t like the barking either, because every time I hear it I am so afraid that someone is outside trying to get into our house.” The thought of this little boy, awake in the middle of the night and full of fear, gave us some much-needed perspective in how we handled our irritation about the dog.

I also knew from stories my sister had told me that his house, not too many years before, had been the scene of a horrific drive-by where automatic weapon-fire was unleashed on the house and its residents. I don’t know if this boy was living there when that took place, but the thought of what impact that could have on a young child gave me an even deeper compassion for his fear, and a greater tolerance for what was in comparison a very mild annoyance.

Fast-forward to 2006. That little boy grows up, and becomes the ringleader of sorts for so much of the trouble that has plagued our street. He is the one who is now gone, whose absence has brought us some peace and has opened up his backyard turf for a new crowd. The days when we worried about a poodle seem distant. And the memories of that sweet, talkative boy are even

Our church was founded out of a calling a few individuals shared to discover what it meant to love their neighbors. I confess that more often than not I don’t really know what this should look like in my own life. Sometimes I do nothing out of a fear of failure or missing the mark. But my failure is greatest when I sit and do nothing but crouch beneath a window and fear.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…? The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


  1. I agree. Loving your literal neighbor can be extremely hard. Like we see them as more of a threat on our personal spaces, choices…and so our barriers become stonger and higher. I have been challenged lately to love my ragamuffin neighbor boys. It is just so hard when you have kids. How do you teach them to love their neighbors when they are doing things you don’t want your own children to do, say, etc.

  2. Julie,
    I think because my two are still so little I have no sense of how great that struggle must be. And I will be there before I know it so it is good to ponder now. It is the parental impulse to surround our kids with safety, goodness, beauty, whatever. How do we show mercy and love to the unlovely in the midst of that? Hmmm……

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