Excerpted from PIECES OF MY HEART by David L. Wood. Copyright © 2011 by David L. Wood. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher, Healthy Life Press.
*Unedited version from the book, "Pieces of My Heart"*
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Frank was my next door neighbor at the house my family lived in for nine years. Frank never liked me from the time I moved into that house. Actually, to be more truthful, Frank did not like me from before I moved into the house.
The first time I met Frank was when the realtor was showing my wife, Denice and I the house for the first time. We were around the side of the house in between our future house and Frank’s house and were gazing at the backyard. Frank was in his yard and I said hi to him and complimented him on his very nice looking grass in his yard. Our future yard was not so nice and in need of some serious attention. Frank’s response to my compliment was, “If you would take care of your yard, it would look nice too”. I remember thinking geez buddy, I don’t even live here yet and that was pretty rude. To make things ruder, later I found out that Frank had come into some money and had recently had new sod installed in his whole backyard. So not long before out meeting, his lawn had looked much like mine.
But still we moved in and Frank lived up to my first impression of him and continued to be rude day after day, year after year. I am a pretty friendly guy and can usually make at least casual friends with just about anyone, but Frank was a tough cookie. Actually, if Frank was a cookie, he would have been one of those cookies that had sat out on the counter for an eternity and had gotten so stinking hard that you could have thrown it and it would have stuck in the wall like one of those cool metal thingamadoogies that ninja’s throw. They would be referred to as the Frank Throwing Star by General Foods. It’s a throwing star, it’s a cookie…two great things that go great together! (cool jingle plays)…anyway. Time after time I made my attempt to become friends and time after time he shot me down like the Red Baron shooting down opponents in a dog fight. Over time, I had to resort to considering a head nod a huge victory with him.
Then one day, something strange happened that changed everything between us. It was a very small “something” actually and really, it was not for him at all but rather, just something to make my life easier, which affected him indirectly.
There was this area between our houses that was long and skinny and really a big pain in the butt to water. To water this area I would have to move a single head sprinkler from one spot to the next and gauge the water just enough to get the grass but not enough to water the side of the house. This was a time-consuming chore to which I did not like, so I set out to solve this once and for all.
I ended up designing a long and skinny PVC sprinkler that had multiple sprinkler heads all in a row that allowed full coverage of this area in one sprinkling. It was an ingenious idea to say the least. All you had to do was lay it out, screw a hose to the end, adjust the water flow and let ‘er go. It was probably the best invention of the past 100 years and it very possibly could have single-handedly brought about world peace and yet I remained extremely meek, lowly and humble.
One day as I was using this, I noticed Frank had gone into his garage. I boldly, like Captain James Kirk going yet into another uncharted territory, went over and asked Frank if he had a minute. He must have had one because he came out of his garage and followed me. I showed him my “Wonder Waterer” that I had painstakingly designed for our area between the houses. He was obviously in awe, shock and wonder at first but eventually recovered enough to nod his head as I showed him how it worked. I’m sure it took everything he had to keep him from oooing and ahhing throughout my very meek and humble presentation. After my last graph and Pareto chart was presented, I knew Frank was sold. When I was finished, I simply told Frank that he was free to use this anytime and it would be right here up against the house. From that moment on, Frank began to worship the ground I walked on…um…I mean…from that moment on, things changed between Frank and me.
Frank used this miracle device and as our grass grew, so did our friendship. He would now just talk to me for no reason at all. He would make eye contact with me, chat me up without me begging him, offer me things to drink, offered me his extra weed barrier and even would even run by and scream high-five as I was mowing my lawn. Ok, I made that last part up. He did not high-five me when I was mowing the lawn, most of the time it was as I was getting my mail. Everyone knows that it is too dangerous to “high five” someone who is operating a lawn mower. Even a weed eater is risky. But that’s for another story.
So my point in all this is that for approximately 7 of the 9 years I lived in this house, I was dead to Frank. And then one day, one random act of kindness cracked him like…um…cracked him like a...a well…like a thing that gets cracked a lot, after a very long time of not being able to be cracked. Yes, just like that!
Frank died about a year after our big break through. I remember that Denice was out of town and we were talking on the phone and I was telling her that something had happened next door. While I was on the phone with her, they brought someone out on the gurney covered in a white sheet. Frank’s wife told me he was sitting in his recliner and never came to bed. When she got up the next morning, Frank was still sitting in his recliner but was not with us anymore.
When I think back on the event that changed the relationship between Frank and me, it is amazing that something so small was the device that changed it. After all, I had spent years and years trying to become at least consistent head nodders with Frank and to no avail. Then when I was not even trying something changed the situation.
I think God works like this. I am reminded by Jesus that we are to love our neighbors and further even love and pray for our enemies. After all, everyone cares about people they like and that like them. It is the people who rub you the wrong way or snub you for no reason at all or just plain mean people who are the real challenge. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus was asking and “is” asking us to do.
I am glad that the door of opportunity finally opened between Frank and me. I wonder, how many more Frank like people are out there just waiting for someone to consistently reach out to them no matter what they get back. I think God has plenty of them and I would encourage you, challenge you or maybe even triple dog dare you to show the love that you have been shown to anyone God puts in your path. Whatever works with you, that is what I am doing. Isn’t this really what Jesus did? God, please help me to remember that it is only Your love that makes me presentable to You. More specifically, it was only through the sacrifice of Your Son that I can stand spotless and blameless in your presence even as I write and pray to You this very moment. Please help me to pursue everyone that You put in my path in the same way that You have pursued me. Help me to show them the value that You have shown that You have for me. Thank you for never giving up on each and every one of us. I love You.
David L. Wood 5/9/2010 (c)
Mark 12:28-31 (New International Version) The Greatest Commandment
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Matthew 5:43-46 (New International Version) Love for Enemies
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?