Hot & Sour Soup for the Cynical Soul

“A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn’t climb over it”
~Arthur Baer~

I don’t jump on every pseudo-spiritual band wagon that rolls through town claiming to reveal some mystic secret of the universe and ways of “being” that the great faith traditions of the world have somehow missed.

As a religious studies scholar, I think the great faiths have got it covered.

We just happen to live in a world where people look for quick fixes, whether it be weight loss, relationships or spirituality.

It was with some hesitation that I picked up one of the “Chicken Soup for the blah-dee-blah-dee-whatever Soul” books.

To summarize, the story was about a man (let’s call him Dick) who was shocked upon hearing about a neighbour’s suicide.

Let’s call the neighbour  Mr. Rogers.  The neighbour was a retired fellow whom everyone loved.

Dick reported that his young daughters often were at Mr. Rogers’ to have their bikes fixed, colouring in chalk on his driveway, and generally doing stuff with him because Dick was too busy.

Dick also said that Mr. Rogers was wonderful because every time anyone asked him for help, Mr. Rogers obliged. Dick also reported that Mr. Rogers never complained about the leaves blowing from Dick’s lawn (Dick was too busy to rake) onto Mr. Rogers’ own, just raked lawn.

As a matter of fact, Dick couldn’t remember a time when Mr. Rogers wasn’t a pleasant wonderful man. Perhaps Mr. Rogers  wasn’t thinking of what wonderfully selfish neighbours he had when he climbed on top of the step ladder, wrapped his handi-work noose around his own neck, and took a leap into the great here-after.

After the lovely funeral service, at the reception (hosted by Mrs. Rogers at their home), Dick learned from the neighbour’s friend, that the blowing leaves from Dick’s yard did in fact irritate the living hell out of  Mr. Rogers.

Read that last paragraph again;  I mean come on! Poor old Mrs. Rogers had to host her own husband’s funeral reception?! Where were all of these neighbours who loved Mr. Rogers so much?

Standing outside, looking at his own messy lawn, the leaves swirled in the wind around Dick. A tear came to his eye. Reaching for a tissue inside the pocket of his suit jacket, Dick pulled out a tissue, and low and behold, there was a leaf in his pocket too ! Dick  thought this was a sign. Oh my!

Yes, surely this meant that Mr. Rogers with his stretched, snapped, neck  was smiling down on Dick. This leaf was a message to say that Dick was forgiven for being such a knob of a  neighbour.

B.A.R.F.

Perhaps self-centred, egotistical Dick who had no time to rake his own yard or look after his own kids needs to not just pull the tissue out of his pocket, but his head out of his….deep, dark pocket.

Perhaps the leaf  meant nothing at all. More likely it was a message from Mr. Rogers  to let Dick  know that it was being surrounded by  un-neighbourly neighbours who took advantage of his kindness which  pushed Mr. Rogers over the edge. Hmmm?

As I have said before, many people like Dick mistake kindness for ignorance. We know that you know we’re doing you a favour and you really don’t appreciate it.  Don’t let leaves in your pocket convince you otherwise.

Too often our spiritual nutrients come in the form of ‘spiritual gummy bears’; a sugar rush that doesn’t last, leaving you feeling depleted. More specifically, causing us to swing from tacky ‘signs’ to hocus pocus and back again as we grasp at the spirituality our hectic lifesyles sacrafice.

So, never underestimate how much you irritate the crap out of your neighbours, even if they never complain and only smile and nod.  Does your selfishness/lifestyle impact another person’s enjoyment of their own home? If  so, you’re a Dick.

I have one piece of advice for you if your neighbours are Dicks. Don’t let your silence and kindness push you take your own life like Mr. Rogers.

Surely to everything that’s holy, a bit of a rant and maintaining firm boundaries might save you, possibly curbing your Dick’s destructive pattern of self-indulgence and spiritual negligence. Accepting nothing but respect from your neighbours may actually fertilize their spiritual growth.

Again, as I’ve said before, the moral of this story; Don’t be a Dick.

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