As I was finishing up a run in the forest preserve yesterday I noticed an older woman walking with 2 plastic bags towards the woods. Wait, is that my neighbor from across the street? She was a ways away from me but it sure looked like her. And, what is she doing with those bags? Hmm, that’s odd. I put it out of my mind while cooling down with some stretches when suddenly she walked right by me…(empty handed). Did she just do what I think she did? Toss those garbage bags into the woods. In the preserve???
I ended up doing a few other exercises as I watched her cross the street and walk toward our block. Yep, that definitely is my neighbor. What should I do? Should I go run back and find the garbage and take it back to her (yes, that crossed my mind). Should I tell her she can’t just throw her garbage in the woods – that’s littering (littering…especially in the middle of nature, makes me real mad). I was incensed. For a moment…then I remembered my practice. To let go. To NOT let judgement take hold of or take root inside of me. To allow others to be and do what they will.
The tension eased within me.
Next, I thought, here is a woman who lives on her own, I don’t see her out with family or friends hardly ever. I think I’ve seen a younger man (presumably her son) come around once or twice in the 6 yrs we’ve lived here. 99% of the time If I see her she’s alone. We’ve said hello here and there. I’ve helped shovel the snow in front of her house a few times (she’s incredibly strong for an older lady). Maybe money’s really tight and paying for the garbage pick-up is too much for her.
Maybe, I’ll ask her if she’d like to use my garbage can? So, I jog up to her house and catch her before she’s going in. In a kindness I sometimes find hard to summon when something irks me, I mention to her that I’m her neighbor from across the street and that while running I noticed her by the forest preserve across the street. I say if she’d like she can use my garbage can rather than having to go across the street to the preserve. She tells me she has garbage pick-up but that she wants to take advantage of her tax dollars too. She just got finished cutting the grass and so brought the clippings over to the woods. Says she’s taken a dead raccoon over there before. Tells me, actually, she doesn’t mind the walk. She thanked me kindly and introduced herself with a smile as Helena (we hadn’t ever formally introduced ourselves).
I walked back to my house feeling a little lighter and brighter.
I noticed a feeling of anger and judgement rise inside of me but quickly allowed it to dissipate. Rather than confronting someone with anger and disappointment, I offered them something of mine that might be useful to them. I took action and addressed something that is very important to me (and wasn’t attached to the outcome). And, I met my neighbor Helena.
I’m learning these tools and many more by being in a community of men who share their skills, wisdom, insight and love with me. Men who hold the space for me to be me and hold up a mirror and keep me accountable when need be. It’s truly an invaluable community. I hope you’ll join us in this community at any of a number of our events coming up. You just might see yourself or your neighbor in a new light.