Jim* was a tall, assertive, somewhat intimidating man who lived across the street and down a couple of houses from the home which my husband and I had recently purchased. After becoming acquainted with the neighbors, I soon noticed and appreciated the care with which Jim, his wife and kids cared for their lawn and flower beds. I was impressed with how clean they kept his large pick-up truck and trailer. I was pleased to learn that the family attended church faithfully. However, I was perplexed that whenever I attempted to make eye contact to greet him, or whenever I waved at him as he drove by, he never returned the salutation. He’d act as if I wasn’t even there.
This hurt my feelings, of course. I tried to imagine what I had done to offend him or cause him to lose respect for me. ‘Do I testify too long and too often in church? Is he put off by my frequent comments in Sunday School? Does he have some personal reservations against people who homeschool?’ I couldn’t be sure, but it was troubling and painful to always be given the cold shoulder.
After several months of this—during which time I never gave up on saying Hi whenever I saw him—I devised a plan. I’d heard it said that
the best way to lose an enemy is to make him your friend.
Having no reason not to like and be-friend this man, other than his inexplicable indifference toward me, I decided to give the truism a try. Figuring that the problem lay in his not knowing me well, I decided to invite him and his family to dinner so we would get the chance to visit and become better acquainted. His wife was always sweet to me. Maybe Jim could learn to enjoy me, too.
Feeling rather nervous (because I hate confrontation), I called his number. I had hoped his wife would answer the phone, but no such luck. Gulp! “Uh—Hi, Jim. This is Shaunalei Andersen. I don’t know if you guys are busy next Monday, but my family and I would like to invite you, Selma*, and the girls to dinner at our house. I thought I’d make Navajo tacos, if that sounds good to you.”
This was so awkward. What should I expect from this guy who refused to even look at me? A flat out “No”? The excuse “We’re busy”? A rude “We’re not interested”? What?! Since I was throwing this at him out of the blue, how would he react?
“Navajo tacos?! I love Navajo tacos. Let me talk to Selma to make sure we don’t have anything going on.”
“Thanks, Jim. That’ll be awesome if you can. I’ll talk to you soon.” We hung up. Yes!
Monday night, our two families sat down to eat. I had prepared not just by making scones and chili, but also by thinking of subjects of conversation which might interest Jim—such as “What should we look for when deciding upon a camping trailer?” (We were hoping to acquire one in the next year.) Jim seemed to really enjoy himself! He was chatty and engaging; such a contrast from his former coldness. Watching us all have a pleasant meal together, an onlooker would never have suspected that this man had been ignoring me for months.
After that experience, whenever Jim saw me coming down the hall at church, he was the one to go out of his way to lean over (making sure I saw him) to say Hello. Each time I was outside when he drove by, he would wave in my direction. Our families didn’t become bosom friends after that, but the cordiality and friendship that came to exist between us as neighbors was gladdening to my soul.
In my mind, it was a miracle. I had lost an enemy and gained a friend!
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.