My in-laws have these neighbours who are real... not nice people. I kinda sensed it before, but now it's definitely confirmed.
It's hard to tell whether it's because they're uneducated, or uncultured, or plain selfish, or all of the above. But they're the sort of people who don't do anything about their house unless it's negatively affecting their comfort. If it's affecting their neighbour's comfort, well, it really isn't their problem.
This would be fine if they were living quite apart in some isolated, distant mansion, but unfortunately they're not -- my in-laws are their neighbours and they live in semi-detached houses, which means they are connected -- very much stuck together -- on one side.
I think their relationship soured ages ago when my mother-in-law finally felt compelled to tell them that dogs needed to be trained to obey their owner's command to stop barking, and that this required dedicated effort and consistency. These people were into dog breeding, if you can believe it -- and had several large-breed dogs in their home which they neither understood nor trained.
The dogs would bark non-stop at virtually anything that moved, and that included my in-laws -- despite the fact that they saw them more than once every single day. My in-laws concluded that although they were, to all appearances, intelligent, trainable breeds like German Shepherds and Labs, they were deficient in brains because they had been inbred. I suppose it didn't help that they were never taken out or played with, and were therefore bored out of their skulls.
Anyway, these neighbours have been having roof troubles for quite awhile now. However, rather than give their roof a complete overhaul, with quality materials and workmanship, they've just been patching it up here and there, wherever and whenever the leaks start affecting their home.
Almost needless to say, they don't choose the best kind of people for the job either, presumably in an effort to cut costs -- this was most clearly evidenced when, some years ago, during one of their little stop-gap patch-ups, their workmen damaged my in-laws' roof so badly that they could actually look up through their wardrobe at the stars.
You'd think, when they were told about it, they'd have gone something like, "O no! We're so sorry, we'll send the men over to fix it right away!" No. Instead, the husband (a retired Major! hello gallantry, honour, integrity, etc etc!) rudely told my mother-in-law that there was no way his men -- carelessly throwing stuff and clambering on my in-laws' roof -- could have done it, and that she was being difficult. She was forced to let him into their bedroom during a thunderstom so he could see for himself the water gushing into her closet.
So -- that's what Mr Major is like. His wife, a schoolteacher (!), the sort of lady who sits on the porch with her whole head in curlers, reading the papers while her husband does the housework, aids and abets him in his immaturity and boorishness.
About a year ago, my in-laws started noticing substantial leakage in their dining room -- on the side they share with their dear neighbours. They called their own roof fellow in, who found that the water was in fact being forced in from the Major's home, through some clogging in his roof drainage system.
However, on telling him this in the hopes that he would fix it, he said -- yep, you guessed it -- it wasn't his problem. So my in-laws -- anxious to avoid fighting with him -- put up with it.
For months they lined that whole area in the dining room with towels, and shuddered with worry every time there was a rainstorm. My husband was seething the entire time, but they told him to let it be. So he did.
Finally, whatever was clogged up in the Major's roof became so bad that it finally forced its way out into their home, and so then he really had no choice but to call in the experts. And lo and behold -- as soon as they fixed whatever it was, the leaking in my in-laws' dining room stopped completely. My in-laws were thankful, despite the fact that the wall and ceiling there are now damaged and discoloured.
Now, similar bad leaking has started in an upstairs bedroom -- yup, on that side -- and the roof guy has told my in-laws that it is again water being forced in from the Major's ill-kept roof. The damage is quite alarming -- besides the bad water stains, it has caused considerable warping in the ceiling. This time, my husband dealt with the Major. And guess what Mr Major told him? "I don't want to talk about it, it's not my problem" (and Mrs Schoolteacher on the side added, "It's hot. Let's go").
The especially stupid part about the whole thing was that when my husband said that he needed Mr Major's permission for the roof guys to go up on to his roof, because the problem was on his side, he actually said ok. He was basically telling us that it was our problem, that he wasn't going to do anything to help, but that sure, we could go ahead and fix his roof.
Kev kept his temper throughout, for which I'm proud of him, given his intolerance of bullying and idiocy. But he did rant about it to me, and I in my turn got upset. In fact, I continued being upset about it the entire day, and frankly, even now, days after, I'm still disturbed when I think about it.
On the superficial level, I'm disturbed that Kev got spoken to like that. I'm disturbed that the situation wasn't dealt with amicably and fairly. But on a deeper level, I'm disturbed that there really are such people in the world. Not outrightly evil people, but people who really are criminally unethical, dishonourable and small.
I'm upset that after all my efforts to be pleasant and courteous to them, the fact is they still hate our guts. I'm upset that they manage to make me think uncharitable thoughts about them. I mean, I actually find myself thinking, how can she possibly be a teacher? What school does she teach at?? Which poor children are under her mean, small-minded tutelage?
And I'm upset that they drive Kev to think of ways of effectively dealing with them. His brother says they are hoodlums and must be dealt with hoodlumishly, and he agrees; it's the only language such people understand.
Kev wants to pursue a legal course, and honestly, I'm more than half in support of that. But it's hard to reconcile it with my faith. I hate conflict, I hate strife; I am largely a "let it go" kind of person.
"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, Do not resist the evil man [who injures you]; but if anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your undershirt (tunic), let him have your coat also.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles]...
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy;
But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven... For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that?
And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?
You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:38-48).
It isn't easy. One can't be a doormat, and yet I'm not at peace in my spirit with things like damage suits. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).
The Bible tells us to "Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace" (Eph 4:3). "Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!" (Ps 34:14).
Am I striving earnestly enough? Am I craving and pursuing peace enough?
Trust me, I know where Kev's coming from. I feel the injustice of it all. I feel indignant for him and for my in-laws. But I've told Kev that we must not act in anger; we must be scrupulous and fair, not malicious or vindictive, and of course he agrees. He says he simply wants a disinterested third party to authoritatively see that justice is done. That is roughly what justice systems are in place for I suppose. Human justice systems.
Peter asked Jesus, "How many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times?" And Jesus answered him, "I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!" (Matt 18:21-22).
Well so far, Kev is not into the forgiving or loving thy neighbour thing. I mean, he does have to pay for the repairs. So I've been praying about this, for peaceful resolution and healing of relationships. I've been praying for Kev, because really, you need a certain wisdom, inner peace, and strength of character to deal with the likes of Mr Major and his wife. And I've been praying for myself; I definitely need divine help to keep "a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men" (Acts 24:16).