The truth is evident when I call a neighbor to discuss a minor but irritating problem I have with his dog. What should be a one-issue conversation turns into a list of complaints. He doesn't like my city attitude. He corrects me for saying up the street instead of down the road. In his mind, my tipsy mailbox is an affront to the neighborhood. "And tell your Mexicans to quit turning around in my driveway."
Calm responses and apologies that he's upset get me nowhere. We don't come to an agreement on the issue. The call ends before "good-bye."
Dismayed and shaken, I resort to my familial frame of reference for this kind of conflict.
I spent my childhood stepping carefully lest I trigger one of my father's land mines.
I learned that anger only needs a small flashpoint. But once the bomb exploded poison gas filled our home and hung heavy over us for hours.
I wonder if it's the same for my neighbor. I feel sorry for him and his family.
Pity aside, I'm still upset. My self-soothing techniques don't help me fall asleep. I remember the morning's children sermon at church, ironically, about loving your neighbor. I don't feeling any love.
The Bible text commands me to pray for my enemy. I can do that. Each time the internal recorder replays a bit of the interchange, I counter it with a prayer. God, let the man across the road be at peace with me. Eventually I drift off.