Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Neighbor Girl

Awareness is important and necessary to any kind of growth. The moment I became conscience of my behavior, my words, my thoughts, is the same moment I realized the immeasurable importance awareness has in our lives. It forces us to become responsible for our actions and reactions and propels self discovery.

It isn't an easy process at first, becoming self aware takes time and patience. I work on it every single day and still fail at it every single day. As much as I want to understand and want to lead with compassion when a cashier is short with me or when I pass a weird neighbor, sometimes my insecurities take over and I allow myself to criticize and judge. But, then, because of awareness, I snap out of it and gain new perspective. Hopefully this practice will become habit over time and my mind won't even venture into the dark side of judgement. My words, behaviors, and thoughts affect other people and I have stopped taking this for granted and refrained from denying culpability.

Today I encountered this lesson once again, right in my backyard, literally. I have this neighbor and well, we haven't had the warmest of interactions. In fact, most of the time I run into her, she walks the other way or just stands still and doesn't speak. She is completely unphased and almost bothered by my need to say hello, so I just stopped. When I would see her my ego would become a little bit bruised and I would start thinking thoughts like...she is so odd, why does she do this, or why does she do that, what is wrong with her, and the classic, what did I ever do to her. My instinct is to feel hurt I was not acknowledged or that my perceived expectations were not fulfilled. Immediately a feeling of defensiveness takes over and self preservation is all that matters. My pain becomes the most important. After I fight off the demon of my ego, I can see past the "weird" behavior and start seeing someone else's pain.

I'm not quite sure what pain my neighbor carries and frankly, it doesn't really matter and shouldn't really matter. My job is to refrain from adding to that pain and to try to show love and kindness, even when I don't want to. I started thinking about her in a different light over the last few weeks. I began seeing her as a human being and not someone who just doesn't say hello. And then, today, I came face to face with her outside while taking out the dog. I sometimes watch my friend's dog, Savannah, and because she is a golden retriever and I am on wheels, I have to be very careful. I can't take Savannah and Belle (my twelve pound cockapoo) out at the same time. Savannah is a lovely and wonderful dog, but she can pull me into the next state if I am not careful. As Savannah was doing her business, my neighbor flew by on her bike. She didn't look up, just kept riding along. Savannah, who is afraid of bikes, cowered and yanked the leash so hard it flew out of my hand. She was backing up to stay away from the bike. Almost instantly, my neighbor dismounted her bike, ran over to me and started trying to grab Savannah's leash. And in that act of kindness I saw a piece of her I neglected to see before...she is deathly afraid of dogs. She mustered every ounce of bravery, fought against timidly shaking hands, and reached out to grab a hold of Savannah's leash over and over. Because of her immense fear she kept pulling her hand back every time Savannah came close. She was overcoming her own fear to help someone else, someone in need. No matter how difficult it was for her to jump off her bike and assist me, she did it anyway. I called Savannah and made her sit and she did, the drama was over. I then looked up at my neighbor, I still don't know her name, and said, "Thank you, I can't believe how nice you are to try and help me." She just looked at me and hopped back on her bike.

I don't need a response from her. I don't need to know why she is the way she is and I don't need know what caused her trepidation around dogs. What I discovered I do need to know is that she is a person, just like I am, carrying around her own personal demons, dilemmas, and mountains to climb. And she shouldn't have to visibly fight against her issues, on my behalf, for me to comprehend and respect this discovery...I owe her these things because she is a person, a soul.


  1. Just rocked my socks with this post! Such a great reminder.

  2. What a powerful post. You actually gave me goosebumps!

  3. Sarah -- this is such a great reminder that people are usually trying to do the best they can to get by.

    Until last week, I'm sure I would have had the same reaction to your neighbor that you did.

    But last week I met a man who has a terrible anxiety issue talking with strangers or even people he doesn't know well. He literally can't speak when it happens. He is able to text or instant message -- but talking either face to face or on the phone takes tremendous effort, and even then there are long silences. It's not a stutter, there is no sound. All the next day I thought about how much I interact with people I don't know - saying hello to the bus driver, or chatting with someone in line at the grocery store. It must be very isolating to live with that kind of fear and shyness -- and now I will always think of him (and your neighbor) when I encounter people who might come across as unfriendly.

    Bless you for sharing your experience & bless your neighbor for trying to help even through her fear of dogs.

  4. So so true. We never know why a person does not respond in a way that we expect. Your story is an example that we don't need to know for there is a reason but it is not for us to always know or understand. We also don't need to inwardly be upset that a neighbor or co-worker doesn't respond to us in a way we expect. There should be no expectations... just send a heart felt smile and good karma everyone's way !!

  5. So thoughtful; thanks for writing this. Being aware of others and treating them with love no matter what is a daily struggle...good to know others who are choosing this journey as well. I like when you said "I try every single day, and I fail every single day". It's so true that it's a seemingly impossible task but your honesty and humility are inspiring...thank you!

  6. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I too struggle not to judge, and I fail as often as I succeed. Thank you for this reminder of why it's so important to give others the benefit of the doubt, to see them as people who have the same struggles and fears that we do, to recognize that others are really not so different from ourselves.

    -Jennifer @ JennJill Designs

  7. Love this post! I try every day to not judge others or let my emotions take over my thoughts towards others...but it's definitely hard! Sounds like you are doing a great job of it though.

  8. Thank you, Sarah, for the reminder that we need know that others are struggling, and try to be compassionate. Thoughtful, insightful post.

  9. Beautiful! You've inspired me again. I've been feeling really convicted about trying to get out of my own pain lately, to accept my humanity and extend grace to others, so this was just spot on! Thank you Miss Sarah! (and yes, you would make an incredible mother (from the previous post)).

  10. Sarah you are an encouragement to all of us who are reading your blog and wise beyond your years!

  11. Thank you, Sarah. We should all strive to remember this.

    In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells a great story to illustrate paradigm shifts in our attitudes. You can find his story here:

    In the same vein, there is a quote that reads "Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle." I think of this story and quote often though probably not as often as I should.

    By the by, I went to Miami too. Your name, face and story seem so familiar but I can't imagine how as I think I must have been gone before you even started there. It's a small world though...

  12. What did Jesus tell us? Love God and treat our neighbors as ourselves. He didn't say they had to love us back.

    What a struggle it is to make that leap. Just lay the love out there and not expect it to be returned. Now that takes practice. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. I just wanted to say, 'hi' Sarah!

    I just found your blog and read all of your posts. You are truly an inspiring woman!

    I've begun my masters in occupational therapy this week and I can't wait to know more of your story and read about your experiences!

    Take care,


  14. So true so true, but lucky you to see what you are seeing. Alot of people go through life and never develop the vision you have.
    I like the changes to the blog site, its looking good.

  15. Thank you for this post. It is a great reminder that we do not always know what is going on inside others.

  16. I tried to embrace this idea for a long time, but it wasn't until my baby died that I truly understood that I will never know the burdens that other people are carrying around. It's so easy to get caught up in our own egos and our own pain and feel hurt or slighted by others, but the old adage that everyone we meet is fighting a battle is really true. Lovely post.

  17. That is an amazing lady to reach out beyond her fear like that whatever her own story. Maybe some cakes or flowers to say thank you will also help you both feel better around each other. :)


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