Years ago, as elementary students at a tiny country school, our bus driver took us to school in his huge station wagon. That meant we kids got to talk with him for an entire hour – both ways. Good-natured and chatty, he would entertain us as he drove. True stories, gigantic whoppers, or funny gossip, it was all fair game to that man.
One such story went much like this. “I’ve always obeyed the laws. Even as a teenager. I remember driving along one day, and a policeman pulled me over. I asked him why. He proceeded to tell me I was illegally driving down the middle of the highway. I informed him that I was simply taking up my half of the road, the other half was still completely free for the other driver to use.” Funny stuff to us kids.
Then there was the story of the much older sister who purchased a lusciously ripe watermelon and brought it with her when she came to visit her younger siblings still living at home. Serving it, she made certain she kept her own portion out of the seedless center as she cut it up in equal portions. Hearing the yells of protest from the others, she calmly told them, “My piece is the exact same size as yours.” Not funny stuff to those kids.
Both stories sound just a little self-serving to you? Me, too. And yet, every day we are seeing that same kind of skewed reasoning in neighborhoods around us. “I own my house and land, therefore I can do with it exactly as I please. I don’t care how my neighbors feel about it. I know my rights.”
Problem is, that person who is exercising his rights could be causing great consternation and problems for his neighbors. Neighbors who now feel that their rights as citizens and homeowners are being infringed upon. Eventually, we have the beginnings of a neighborhood brouhaha. Because I know of very few people who truly feel that their own rights mean less than their neighbors. So now, both sides are protesting vehemently that they are offended and their rights are being trampled.
Where does it end? How does it get solved in a way that truly satisfies everyone? Probably never does. Our courts can end the dispute by giving a verdict, but that doesn’t mean everyone walks away happy campers – or peaceful neighbors. Predictably, someone will feel offended and cheated.
Better way? From the beginning, do what the Scriptures tell us to do in Philippians 2:3-4; “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Interpreted: If we would all treat our neighbors as though they are just as important as ourself, the whole bunch of us can get along a lot easier.
Play nice with each other.
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