I can remember as a child a certain incident happening with a neighbor. I was about nine or ten years old. I will not go into the details, except to say that my mother stepped in, despite what I considered to be a very humiliating experience, and simply ate that slice of humble pie on my behalf.
Arrogance had trumped common sense, and my pride was not about to take the knee on the situation. At the end of the day, she came into our room and sat down on the edge of the metal bunk bed and waited until I acknowledged her presence.
“We are supposed to seek peace and pursue it.” She began.
Every word spoken, every action, every decision is weighed against what I purpose to be my destiny.
I was not about to protest, because I knew in the absence of a meaningful conversation, her discipline was not a preferable alternative. My mother had this way of dismembering you with her meek disposition. If I chose to be obstinate, like the delinquent youth I could be sometimes, she would simply wait until another day to revisit the unpleasantness. I decided it was best to engage her despite the late hour.
“Whatever got into you today, no matter how aggrieved or belligerent he may have been, you had no right to disrespect an elder in the neighborhood.”
I replayed the situation in my mind and agreed I could have managed it differently. But I was annoyed that my mother had to endure the stares of everyone, and the indignity of pacifying a neighbor who I thought was a bit of a narcissist.
“Did you have to let him embarrass you like that?” I so wanted to be angry.
“Do you believe after today he would feel any more empowered by what has transpired?”
“He might… he is a bit of a devil. None of the kids like him, and he is always angry with us for no apparent reason.”
I exaggerated the last part. This neighbor had dealt with our youthful terrorism everyday for nearly five straight years. We were not angels by any stretch of the imagination.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. She knew I was not being entirely honest. There were several instances where this very neighbor had to call the police for either me or my brothers, or our friends. Every time, it was mum who had to talk us out of a spanking from the police and issue the apology.
“The seed planted today would bear fruit in the years to come. Sometimes, you take the loss today, to gain the victory tomorrow.” She said it with a shrug of her shoulder. With that she got up and left the room, and the lecture was over.
It would be about 8 years before I had the opportunity to see what fruit this deed had borne. Another neighbor had fallen ill one morning when the neighborhood was quiet, and her only daughter came seeking help. I responded as I yet to leave for work, and the only other person available at the time, was the neighbor who was my sworn enemy. Though we both disliked each other, we went to this woman’s aid and rushed her to the hospital. It was my first experience with loss and death. The lady did not make it to the emergency room. She died in a fit of convulsions while I held her on the way there.
This neighbor, who I had resented all those years, saw the very distraught look on my face as we watched her blanketed body being wheeled into the hospital. He placed his arm over my shoulders, and with a compassion I never knew he had, he just embraced me.
“You did a brave thing today nigel. I am proud of you.” His voice broke as he said it. I think the moment had hit him quite hard as well.
This was a man, who was a bit of a rogue. He was a tyrant, always yelling at his wife and son. Threatening to break our bones when he caught us trespassing. It was an awkward hug if I am being honest. A few weeks thereafter, this neighbor began attending church. Whatever had transpired that day, had altered his demeanor permanently. He was a friendly person, a different man, committed to making a difference in the lives of those around him.
Humility was never my strong suit. I look back on that incident with my mom and even today, the memory of her swallowing her pride to preserve the peace still irritates me. But the deed bore fruit. Not every failure is a loss. Sometimes we must consider the result of our actions. Every event in life, affords us the opportunity to make better decisions.
If we could catch a glimpse into the future and see the effects of our every decision, there are so many things we would do differently. I am trying to be a better person. A better man, a better human being. Every word spoken, every action, every decision is weighed against what I purpose to be my destiny. I cannot and will not always get everything right… but I will try.
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