Before I go any further, I should give readers some quick background on the neighborhood where I live. Our subdivision is relatively new, and we were among the first to move into the area 12 years ago. We also live on the side of a hill, and residents of the area soon learned the hard way that the developer failed to provide adequate water drainage for the area. It resulted in flooding for us and ice build-ups for our neighbors, and eventually caused a slip-and-fall accident and a nightmare lawsuit for our neighbours that’s lasted for years. To make a long story short, my wife and I hired a landscaper and have made drastic changes to our property over the years, including correcting the drainage problems not just for ourselves, but also for our neighbors, at our own expense.
The other thing readers should know about our street is that it’s very narrow. It has no sidewalks, and there is very little space for parking between our driveways, causing constant parking concerns and inconvenience for everybody over the years. Thus, we’ve all had to learn over the past 12 years how to put up with the times when our neighbors have large parties, especially during winter months when snow banks encroach on our already narrow streets. Our narrow street also presents a significant problem for delivery people and trades people who come with their large vehicles to do work for residents.
So, after 12 years, you’d like to think that the neighbors would all take this in stride and learn to live with the minor, unavoidable parking inconveniences that arise from time to time. It’s all small stuff, right? Well, as my wife and I have recently discovered, apparently not.
Our first clue that trouble was brewing came a few weeks ago when we gathered with some neighbours over a few glasses of wine, and one particular couple began harassing us about our yearly spring visit from our landscapers, and the alleged terrible inconveniences that it causes them. Even more surprising than their harassment, was the fact that these people just didn’t seem to be able to let the issue go. As a result, sensitive to their concerns, we resolved to make sure we advised them in advance of any future landscaping, so they could prepare for the inevitable minor inconvenience that arises due to our narrow streets. Once again, it’s all small stuff, right?
Apparently not, as evidenced by an event in our neighborhood yesterday that made it abundantly clear that there’s still a lot of people in this world who can’t stop obsessing about “The Small Stuff” and need to get their hands on a copy of Mr. Carlson’s book.
Unfortunately for me and my wife, we had to schedule another visit from our landscapers to remove some mutant decorative grasses. These grasses loved our new drainage plan so much (remember the drainage issue?), that their roots were growing out of control and invading the lawn of our other next door neighbours. We were happy to address the issue with them, and we agreed in advance to repair any damage to their yard when our landscapers came in with their back hoe. That’s right folks - we’re talking about grasses that looked like a sugar cane field!
So, when I arrived home from work last night, I was overjoyed to see how neat and considerate my landscapers had been to my neighbours. There was no damage at all to their yard, there was no mess on the street, and the gravel from the excavation site was piled neatly on my driveway and sidewalk. Unfortunately, my joy was extremely short lived.
When my wife checked our telephone messages, she was met by an angry tirade from our neighbour on the downside of our house. To refresh your memory, this is the lady whose drainage problems we fixed at our expense, and on whose behalf we wrote a glowing recommendation to her lawyer when she and her husband were involved in their lawsuit over the slip-and-fall accident on their icy driveway. She apparently has a very short memory, and took it upon herself to become the neighborhood parking police and to go ballistic on our landscapers about how badly they inconvenience her every year when they need to find a place to park their trucks on our street.
As if the phone message wasn’t bad enough, I then discovered an envelope on our front door step that contained a cowardly anonymous attack on my wife and I, from somebody who apparently didn’t have the courage to discuss their concerns with us directly. The personal attack on us left us so shocked that we spent the evening wandering the house, trying to make sense of the day’s events. Then we heard from our landscapers, who told us how they'd been verbally attacked by the lady next door.
The intensity and viciousness of the verbal and written personal attacks by our neighbors was totally out of proportion to the nature of the events, and left us feeling shocked and violated.
Yesterday’s events were so confusing that I finally had to stand back this morning to take a look at the big picture, and to put things in perspective. The occasional visits from our landscapers, once or twice a year for a day or so, are really no different than the parking inconveniences that occur when any of our neighbors have large gatherings in their homes for a day or an evening. Any minor inconvenience that results can easily be rectified with a simple, polite request to please move a vehicle. In the big scheme of things, our landscaper’s visits cause no lasting damage and have no lasting negative effect of any consequence on the neighborhood.
So, after stepping back and looking at the big picture, what do I think we can all learn from an event like the one that happened in my neighborhood yesterday?
First, when something happens to inconvenience us (and it’s bound to happen to every one of us almost every day), let’s all try to take a step back and put everything into perspective. Then, take a look at what’s happening in the world around us in comparison There are people who are murdering, raping, and trying to take over the riches of the middle east so that they can wage war on all of us and our way of life. Hundreds of thousands of people are being tortured, killed, or left homeless. And we’re worried that we might have to be a bit more cautious driving down our crowded street, or it might take us a minute or two longer to get to work?
Come on folks! Minor daily inconveniences are so inconsequential in the big scheme of things that it’s a shame that I even have to take the time to write this blog to remind us all! It brings to mind the parting words on each and every one of Ellen Degeneres’ daily TV shows - “Let’s be kind to each other!”
Remember, as Richard Carlson says in his book - its ALL small stuff! So let’s stop obsessing about and over-reacting to things that are completely trivial in the big scheme of things. Instead, let’s redirect our energy into being positive, understanding and kind to each other. We’ll all be happier and less stressed in the long run!