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The Neighbors

 

Several years ago I lived in an apartment on the top level of a house. My downstairs neighbors were from Mexico. I didn’t know much of their story, but I knew the mom’s name was Maria, her husband worked the night shift and they had two loud children who loved to play tag in the house. They were outsiders in the community.

 

I worked late on Friday nights and came home around 10:30-11:00 o’clock at night. Most of the neighborhood was asleep by that time, but not Maria and her family. They were grilling out with extended family, played loud festive music and well… having a party. The first time I came home and saw them, I politely smiled, but inside I was incredibly annoyed. I was tired and all I wanted to do was grab a snack and go to bed. I walked in my door, sighed and stewed in my anger. I thought for a moment of how I could stop the party. Then I decide…I could call the police! They are disturbing the peace! I will call the cops! That will show them not to have late parties in my backyard!

 

Then suddenly there was a timid knock on the door. I slowly opened it and before me stood Maria with a huge plate of food. She had rice, refried beans, grilled chicken and all the Mexican fixin’s sitting on a paper plate covered in foil. She smiled and said, “I hope we don’t bother you. We thought you might be hungry”. I smiled back, never taking my eyes off the food and I replied, “Nope, you are not bothering me at all!”

 

A few weeks later they had the family over again for a backyard late night party. I came home, climbed the stairs and I was only in my apartments for a few minutes before a timid knock came at my door again. “I hope we are not bothering you”, Maria said as she handed me a plate of food. Another few weeks went by… another party… another knock… another plate of food.By the time they had their 4th party, I didn’t care how loud or how late they partied. As long as they kept feeding me they could do whatever they wanted! They had won me over.

 

Sometimes in life we come in contact with people who don’t fall into the rhythm of our life. They have their own rhythm going on. They do things differently, live differently, believe differently and sometimes stay up late playing loud festive music into all hours of the night.

 

Maria’s commitment to doing good and treating me with kindness… regardless of my attitude towards her won me over. Her hospitality and good cooking won my heart. I loved having Maria and her family as my neighbors.

 

1 Peter 3 13-18 (The Message)

“If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.”

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