My little one and I walk down the street on the cracked sidewalk in front of his house. We pass him sitting on his porch in the sunken in chair, cigarette in hand. As usual. It seems he is forever and always sitting right there smoking.
A tiny dog is tucked into his free arm. For the first time ever, the man, who is in his fifties, smiles back at me.
And then he talks. A lot.
I am shocked, but listen and walk closer.
It's now been a year since we moved into the rental house across the street from this man and his family. Honestly, I wrote them off long ago. Pretty much from day one. There were things about them that seemed off. Suspicious. Dirty. Run down. Lazy.
Not one bit my ideal type of neighbors.
Sure, I'd give the man a courtesy wave when I drove by, but I judged him. Big time. I figured he did the same for me. He never waved back.
Today is the first time the old man and I have spoken words more than a quick "hi".
Earlier this week, I thought about how I couldn't wait to move away from this street and meet our new neighbors at our new house in our wonderful new neighborhood.
We stand in front of his porch - an unlikely pair. He in his ratty jeans and me with my shiny gold sandals. He talks and talks for 10 minutes. And in that time I learn that he is a grandpa. His wife is bedridden (I didn't even know he was married) so he spends a lot of time on the porch because he can't leave her alone at all. That porch is as far as he can get. His new dog was abused by it's previous owner, so it is terrified of people. The only one the pup trusts is him. When he tells me this, I say "Well, it shows. Look how content and comfortable he is in your arms."
The man beams.
And in that moment, I regret and hate every single unkind thought and ugly judgment I made against him. My heart aches.
I was so quick to judge. And for what reason?
Convicted, I repent and ask God for forgiveness as I wave good-bye to the man. He plops down into his usual chair and says "I'll sit for a while and then get the meatloaf in the oven. I'm sure my wife is hungry."
I like to think of myself as being a kind, loving person. Someone who is open minded and chatty and friendly.
While I may be those things, I am most certainly a constant sinner in need of a gracious Savior. I pray that God would use today as a lesson and a reminder for me. Again and again.
All are worthy of my love, His love.
No judgments. Slow down. Chat with folks. Listen. Encourage. Speak kindly. Forgive. Love.
Will you do the same, friends?
*I originally penned these words over three years ago. I drove past that same house a few times last week and the man wasn’t sitting there on his porch. I wondered why.