Kindness: Something You’ll Never Regret
“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” ~Ani DiFranco
Peach, my 10-year-old, rushed through the back door of the house, out of breath and agitated. “The neighbor just told me he is going to shoot mama cat,” she said.
“Whoa . . . he said what?” I asked.
“He said if Toots goes in his yard again, he’s going to shoot her.”
“Stay in the house,” I said, adopting her agitation and heading out the front door.
In the two years since moving into the peaceful South Hill neighborhood, I had not realized how much smaller in stature Ron was than I. And much like my little dog with the big bark, he seemed to bare his teeth through the small crack in his door. “I’ll say anything to anyone I want!” he barked after I asked him to please come to me directly with any concerns he has with my household, and to never approach my children again. “What on earth is my cat doing to make you want to shoot her?” I asked. She keeps coming into his yard, he said. And making his cat yowl, he said. “I’m not quite sure how to remedy that,” I replied. “Like your cat and so many others in the neighborhood, she goes in and out, and roams the neighborhood.”
“Well, keep talking . . . because I’m going to shoot the cat the next time it comes into my yard,” he snarled.
Energy’s desire to be matched is a powerful force, and I felt my body wanting to answer the war cry of his. But, we lived right beside each other. And there was no way I was going to fail this moment to tamp down the velocity of his anger and attempt to fix what had gone askew. I pulled in the air around me—as he continued throwing his words my way—hoping to smooth out the vibrational forces surging through my body. I reminded myself that I’m fierce in the face of challenge, and good with words, and . . . I had no doubt my daughter was peeking through a window, adopting it as her own experience. “I don’t want a war, I want a resolution,” I whispered in my mind.
“And if you don’t get off my porch and stop trespassing on my private property, I’m going to shoot you, too,” he hollered. “Because I can shoot anything I want, including you.” He pulled his teeth back through the door and began to retreat into his house, as he yelled about going to fetch his gun to shoot me: RIGHT. NOW.
I hustled across my driveway, leapt onto the porch, and slipped back into the house, closing—and locking, deadbolt and all—the screen door and the front door, while calling out to Peach to back away from the window and head upstairs to her bedroom. Blood pressure—and my thoughts—pulsed through my head as I dialed 911.
“Did you see him with a weapon?” the operator asked. I explained the strength of my intuition had repelled me from the situation, and, no, I had not waited to see if he was going to emerged brandishing a gun. “Call us right away if you see him coming onto your property with a weapon.” she said.
Right then, Peach shrieked. “Mom, Toots is OUTSIDE and she just. jumped up. on. his. front. porch.” I instructed her to move away from the window, right now, and—with zero hesitation—mumbled: “the cat is on her own.”
Fast-forward a couple of uneasy hours and several unproductive calls to the police department—“Again, Ms. Regalado, has he come onto your property with a visible weapon?”—when we were startled by a rap on the front door. There, through the peep hole, stood my neighbor, even smaller in stature this time, shoulders rolled forward and downward, chin hanging low, eyes looking up. I glanced at each of his hands to check for a weapon (it was ingrained in my head at this point), and then opened the door a crack to speak through the locked screen door.
“I’m here to apologize,” he said. “I’ve been struggling with some things in life and I took it all out on you.” I opened the door and stepped out onto my front porch, feeling the warm air for the first time that day. “I have been terrified for two hours,” I said, tears beginning to burn the corners of my eyes. “And I’m really sorry to hear you have been struggling.”
As we chatted about things he’s learning from his counselor after a lifetime of loss and tragedy, Toots trotted up, rubbed against our legs and meowed. “She really is a super sweet cat, I’m so sorry she’s been irritating you,” I said.
“It’s a girl cat?” he asked. He had Toots confused with a male cat that had been pursuing his female cat. “She is an old girl, and has been spayed for years, so she doesn’t play any of those kinds of games any more,” I said. He apologized, again.
That was two years ago. We stayed friendly toward each other, always making sure to smile and say hello in passing. He struggled with his health over the winter, and broke a leg, too, so I made sure to shovel his walks for him. My children joked that only their mother would shovel the walks of someone who had once threatened to shoot her. “You never regret being kind,” I shared. As the seasons were about to crest into spring—with a chill in the air, but a promise of hope from the sunshine—several emergency vehicles rushed upon his house. One of his friends had discovered him, dead, inside his home.
You don’t need a tragedy to remind you to push yourself toward others, instead of pushing them away, even when it seems an impossible task. But it has certainly reminded me that I have never regretted being kind . . . or in seeking resolution, not war.
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