Monday, July 8, 2013

Being Neighborly Is Not Always Easy, But Always Right

Dear Tazi:

I have a horrible new neighbor and I don’t know what to do about her! When she moved in this past spring, I noticed that she was planting a garden. I walked over to introduce myself, and casually mentioned that I, too, fancied gardening. When she asked me what I grew I told her of all the flowers that I plant, and offered to bring her with me the next time I went shopping for plants. She haughtily replied that she is a “real” gardener. “Amelia” told me that she grows a sustenance garden – she plants seeds every spring and grows enough vegetables to support her eating habits, pickling and canning the excess at the end of the season. I was shocked at this woman’s rudeness! Who is she to decide what constitutes a “real” gardener?

I had not spoken to Amelia since, figuring that we were not meant to be friends or even friendly neighbors, when she decided – without consulting me – to cut down a large tree that overhung my yard and provided shade for some of my plants. When I told her how upset I was she told me that it was her tree and her property and that she needed the space to extend her garden, and besides that the tree created too much shade for her tomatoes. Tazi, this woman has no respect for other people’s property!

I realize the tree was on her land, but cutting it down was not very neighborly. I am planning an end-of-summer block party (I hostess one every year) and was originally planning on inviting her as a way of helping her get to know the neighbors, but now I am purposely considering excluding her. My grown children tell me that I am being petty, and that I should treat her as I would like to be treated; that Christ said to love thy neighbor and to turn the other cheek. I am not very religious (their father was, and I suppose that is where they get it from) so their words are falling on deaf ears – or at least they would, if the words were not from my children.

Should I do as my children ask and invite this odious woman? I feel like it is she who owes me an apology and that by inviting her she will think all is okay between us when it is not.

A REAL Gardener

Dear A REAL Gardener:

Your new neighbor may suffer from a form of Autism, which makes it difficult for her to empathize with other people, or she could just be a self-centered person. Why not give her the benefit of the doubt? Her comments about what constitutes a “real” gardener were hurtful, but from what I read this is the attitude of a lot of people who have sustenance gardens; I find it to be very uppity and chic (remember when shopping organic was the new “in” thing?); as soon as the next big thing comes along most of these people will abandon their gardens and move on to it. Try not to take Amelia’s words to heart.

Or you could choose to do a little trimming of your own

As for the cutting down of a tree: it was on her property and was her tree to do with as she liked. If the situation were reversed and you did not want the tree you would have been within your rights to trim back the portion that overhung your yard; try to see this from that point of view. Would it be possible to put up an inexpensive awning to shade your low-light loving plants?

I do believe that excluding Amelia from your annual block party will do more harm than good. Not only will it hurt Amelia’s feelings to be snubbed, but it will make you look like a very small person in front of your friends and neighbors. Including Amelia will show that you are above petty arguing and that, in spite of the differences between the two of you, you would like to welcome her to the neighborhood and help her to get to know the people who live there. To say or do otherwise would be cruel; a person does not have to be a Christian or a follower of any religious practice or belief to possess a sense of compassion towards others. You may even surprise yourself by discovering, once you get to know Amelia better, that you have common interests. When the opportunity to make a new friend presents itself, you should go for it!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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