Once upon a time, there was a middle-aged couple who moved into a new neighborhood. It was a pleasant area and they quickly made themselves at home. They kept everything neat and tidy and followed all the rules, or at least those that had been made available to them as renters in the community. When they moved into the house, they innocently placed a hose on the faucet that was clearly intended for a hose on the side of the house. They wound it nicely, always making sure it was exactly as a hose should be when it was stored. Over time, since it was winter and they didn’t need the hose, they forgot about it until one day they discovered that the innocent hose had been removed from its designated spot and tossed up against their front door. No one noted the event, but the reprimand was clear. A bit later, the couple learned that a complaint had been filed against them, and even a photo taken of the disagreeable hose that had hung so neatly on the side of the house. The couple was somewhat dismayed. Had they overlooked a rule that they were given sometime along the way? Since the couple felt as though they had been “hosed” they determined that this was not a neighborhood they would choose to live in and started making plans to find a new home. Somehow the neighborhood had lost its charm.
The above story seems almost silly and yet it is exactly what happened recently to me and my husband in our new rental home. We were amazed to get a call from the management company telling us a complaint had been filed. We were more amazed that no one had thought to kindly tap on the front door and let us know about the “no hose in sight” policy, or that we hadn’t been given some kind of warning so we could take care of the issue ourselves. I share this small incident with you for only one reason. What does it mean to be a neighbor? Clearly someone felt righteous in tossing our hose on the front step and filing a complaint. How often do we feel right about actions that are probably entirely wrong? What does it say about our integrity that we cannot even come from behind the shadows and let someone know we truly have a complaint? I bring this to the attention of all of us, because at some time or other, we may have done this too. We may have misjudged someone in an instant, or made assumptions that were incorrect or spread a little gossip without even checking to see if it was true. How often have we been unable to see the forest for the trees?
Jesus said in Matthew that it was important for us to take the log out of our own eye before we tried to remove a splinter out of someone else’s eye. What is it about us, about any of us, that causes us to quickly focus on someone else’s small offenses and stay blind to our own? Oh, I’m sure our neighbor, whoever it is that sought to remove the splinter from our eyes, felt a moral obligation to do so. I’m sure they were saving the street from the small, wound-up hose on a side faucet of the building. After all, there can be few things that are more important in any community. Sure makes me miss Mr. Rogers.