Love Thy Neighbor

For over two years, the house next door to us was vacant. The previous owners foreclosed, and left in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

Neighbors took turns mowing the lawn, making it look “not” vacant. And we waited. And we hoped. And finally a lovely young woman bought the house. Hurray!

Over the last several days, she has proceeded to have three of the gorgeous very mature trees on her property cut down. Trees that provided our yard with privacy and shade. Todd and I have felt sick watching it. Like we’re standing by witnessing a slaughter. The trees are what make this neighborhood special. The lovely, old, huge, trees. The house is small. She’s a young woman. This is likely her “starter” home, and she’s going to hack down something that’s been there probably a hundred years?

To add insult to injury, they’ve been cutting them down, all day, during the precious time when the kids are at camp, the only time this homeschooling mom has to herself to enjoy peace and quiet all year, and I’ve got to listen to the buzz of loud chain saws. It’s been deafening. We don’t have A/C and I can’t have the windows open or the sawdust floats in. Grr.

The other day I noticed our disgust had trickled down to the kids. Seth was peering out the window, shaking his head, and his fist, and something inside me said, enough of this.

A lesson from A Course in Miracles went through my mind, “I do not know what I am looking at, so I cannot judge what I see.”


After sorting it through in my head and heart for a while, I decided to talk with the kids. We really don’t know why she is cutting the trees. Perhaps they are dying or diseased, and she was advised to do so. Perhaps they are in danger of damaging her home. Perhaps she’s afraid the next wind storm will bring a big limb onto our house? Perhaps she has seasonal affective disorder and craves sunshine and couldn’t get a blessed speck of it with all that glorious shade. Perhaps none of this is true and she’s just totally unconscious and doesn’t think twice before she does things. Even if that were so, is it reason to hate? No.

Either way, the trees are coming down. I can make myself sick over it, or I can entertain the possibility I don’t know everything, that I’m not better than anyone else, that just because I would choose differently doesn’t make another person wrong. She seems like a good person. Like everyone else, she’s a child of God, living her life and going about her business. Which, BTW, is none of my business. Even if I can no longer walk by my upstairs windows naked.

The kids and I talked and talked and during our conversation, we all felt more expansive. I told them how my Grandmother always said… “When you point the finger, you have three pointing back at you.”

We discussed what we don’t like about this situation? And how are we demonstrating the very qualities we don’t like, in our own lives?

She isn’t seeming to consider the value of the trees or how destroying them will affect her neighbors.

Are we considering her desires for her yard, when we judge her?

Crappity crap crap.

So, the O’Neil’s are letting it go. She’s got a lovely yard, with a gorgeous coi pond which she’s restored beautifully. She’s a good neighbor, never a problem. She’s a nice person. She has a vision for her yard, which we don’t understand, but which is none of our business. We’ll honor that with love, as her vision unfolds.

The whole situation has inspired us to plant some trees in our own yard, which is truly the only thing one can ever tend to.

This entry was posted in A Course in Miracles, appreciation, Parenting, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Love Thy Neighbor

  1. Niksmom says:

    I had to laugh about your lament of not being able to walk by your window naked. *snort* Which is the very reason I am grateful our property abuts state preserve land which is lush with trees. LOL

    Such a great lesson though… I don’t always know what I am looking at, yet I do judge. Sometimes with embarassing haste. Thank you for the reminder of grace and humility…and acceptance. The very things I would ask of the world for my child.

  2. *m* says:

    My sympathies. As a girl who grew up in the woods, I always mourn the loss of a tree. And I feel for you — one of the reasons we bought our home in a development (which I had sworn I would never do) was the presence of some huge, beautiful old shade trees. We have proceeded to plant about 40 (!) more trees over the dozen years we have lived here, and they have increased our privacy factor tremendously.

    Your restraint and perspective is admirable — and a great example for your kids. Still, I hope your new trees grow fast!

  3. Chris V. says:

    This is lovely… so much I can learn from this..I like what your grandmother said…. I LOVE that you are planting your own trees….in your own yard…

  4. Courtney says:

    “Expansive” is one of my new favorite words. Along with “generative” and “restorative.”

  5. Tanya Savko says:

    You are absolutely right – we don’t always know someone else’s reasons, and there’s no guarantee that we ever will know, so we might as well just plant trees in our own yards. Wonderful example of letting go with love. Thank you for the reminder. xo

  6. Liz says:

    I love your posts! I find them so inspiring.

    Particularly inspiring in this story was the fact that you saw Seth shaking his fist and his head and then you looked inside YOURSELF to see what you were modelling. This is exactly the sort of behaviour that everyone says that you should model, but to read a story about how one would go about doing that, THAT is inspiring.

    And I love how you stopped blogging (and then started again) with so much grace.

    Have a great 4th of July!

  7. Amanda says:

    “When you point the finger, you have three pointing back at you.”

    Good point!

    Sorry about the loss of trees, but like you say, plant your own and they will be yours to do with as you will… and not being able to walk naked? Hope you rememeber! 😉

  8. kario says:

    I can always count on you to stop and examine your strong emotions and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. The conversation you had with Seth and Riley was so important and I feel certain that your neighbor will reap the benefits of living next to you O’Neils in many, many ways. I can only hope that she returns the favor.

  9. Michelle O'Neil says:

    Okay….this just in…..they were sweet gum trees, which drop zillions of spiky balls all over the yard, and make for a miserable clean up, and a mess of a yard for them all year. They look like this:

    I understand better now, even if it is not any of my business, LOL. Thank you for allowing me to process.

  10. rhemashope says:

    a good, hard lesson that you are teaching your children and living by example. thank you for this.

  11. Angela says:

    So happy to read your post. I feel, all too often, that people judge without knowing all of the facts. As parents of children on the spectrum, how often are we judged by people who don’t know the facts.

  12. Bert says:

    I appreciate your acceptance of the situation. Our next door neighbor has severed what I thought was a special friendship over a very similar situation.

    My 100×100 lot had 8 mature oaks. On a calm sunny day while the other neighbor’s 2 kids (6 & 4) were playing 15 feet away, a live, seemingly healthy limb dropped off and CRUSHED my pickup truck. Had it hit anyone, they would certainly have been killed.

    Twice prior I had the dead wood pruned at a rather large expense. After, I had one huge oak tested (core boring) at another large expense to find it was rotted internally. They offered a cabling design to support the limbs, but I opted to fell the tree rather than trying to maintain a diseased tree.

    I was no longer comfortable having huge trees on a small property where we often socialize and kids play. I imagined myself, following a disaster, crying with the mother next door saying “I wish there was something I could have done.” Well, there was something I could do…I removed the oaks…and lost the friendship of a neighbor.

    I have replanted with decorative trees and shrubs that will not put tons of wood overhead. When all was said and done, I spent in excess of $20,000 in pruning, testing, removal, replanting…and pickup truck deductable payment. I made what was the best decision for me, on my property, in consideration for the safety of everyone.

    It bothers me that I now find myself feeling resentment due to the lack of consideration for my decisions concerning my property. I really need to avoid the resentment and perhaps accept the lost friendship.

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