I hated my neighbour: Then one lesson led to a life-changing friendship

Whenever I wonder what it will take to stop us from attacking our adversaries, I think back to my first experience of hating my neighbour.

I was 27 when I landed an early-morning anchor job at the ABC News affiliate in Dallas. Each weekday, I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m., showered, put on makeup and dressed as though I were competing in a fashion show.

Then I jumped into the driver’s seat of my blue Honda Accord and sped south down the highway.

The biggest impediment to my success as a morning news anchor wasn’t the hours, my wardrobe or my on-air delivery. It was the enemy next door.

My next-door neighbour had a Yorkshire terrier that barked incessantly in the evenings, running along the chain-link fence just outside my bedroom window.

To get enough sleep to function in my job, I was under the covers with lights out no later than 8 p.m.

I asked my neighbour to please take her dog inside for the night. She ignored my request.

Morning after morning, I dragged myself out of bed, smeared concealer under my eyes and guzzled coffee to make up for lost sleep.

My resentment boiled like hot lava.

How could an eight-pound dog sabotage my best efforts to excel in a competitive television market?

I lay in bed at night listening to the dog’s shrill bark and imagined all the ways I could silence it.

It wasn’t pretty.

When I began to fantasize about lacing a juicy steak with poison and dropping it over the fence, my dark passion caught me by surprise.

Who was I becoming?

This woman who sang in church on Sundays, and on Mondays dreamed up ways to hurt her neighbour’s pet.

Instead of silencing the Yorkie, my husband and I filed a noise complaint with the city.

The court set a hearing date for Dec. 24.

My neighbour, in retaliation, baited a trap on her property with cat food, lured my tabby over the fence and sent him to the pound.

By the time my husband’s parents arrived for their Christmastime visit, I was obsessed.

My in-laws were my heroes and spiritual mentors, so I asked them what they would do about the dog.

“If you’re going to be a follower of Jesus,” my father-in-law said, “you’ll love your enemy, not sue her.”

He was a man who had suffered in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II and had forgiven his brutal captors.

Over the years I had seen him epitomize what it looked like to “love your neighbour as yourself.”

As Christmas approached, I had to choose which voice would control my next move: the contemptuous one that demonized a neighbour or the empathetic and self-sacrificing one being seriously tested.

I walked reluctantly across the driveway dividing our houses, climbed the front steps and knocked on her door.

My neighbor faced me with a steely grimace. Continue reading

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