“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – – Romans 12:15-18
My wife Ann and I found our dream house in 1995. The minute we pulled in the driveway I could imagine my kids running in the yard. It was probably the easiest sale our realtor ever had. It was and is a wonderful place that will be hard to leave when the time comes. One unique aspect of our house is that we live across the street from a Yeshiva for Hasidic Jews. In some ways it is almost like not having neighbors. They keep to themselves and do not have a lot of dealing with “outsiders.” Except every once in a while. I did meet the head Rabbi as he visited to ask if I could call the electric company to report an outage at the Yeshiva. It was the Sabbath and he could not do work he explained. I was happy to call. Other times I have been out in the community and been asked for a ride by people who lived at the Yeshiva. That put me off because it seemed a little too forward but I obliged. And all of my riders were always polite, always humble.
So we would see them but never had much to do with any of our neighbors until one fall day when there was a knock on the door. It was a man named Mr. Ganz. He was wondering if he might rent out part of our house for the holidays (Rosh Hashanah). He usually had to stay down at the motel and walk up for services. It was a long walk and he had little kids. So he wondered if they could stay with me. He had ten kids. I try to be accommodating to people. I see myself as someone who is open and gracious but this was a big ask. I told him that I would talk to my wife about it and he should come back later that day.
He never came back. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Then it began to dawn on me that he was assuming he could stay. He was just going to show up with his ten kids and stay for the days of the holidays. I thought that was very presumptive. I said to Ann, “I bet he is just going to show up and expect to stay here with his ten kids! Those people are a little pushy.” And sure enough there he was on the afternoon he had asked for. It annoyed me and as I opened the door I blurted out: ‘You can’t stay here Mr. Ganz!” He gave me an odd look. And said, “I know, I talked to the Rabbi about it and we worked something else out. But my wife made this Challah bread for you just for entertaining the idea…”
I had judged him and he was much different than I believed. I jumped to the worst conclusion I could and tried to blame my neighbor. And all he had was generosity on his mind. It has been a lesson to me for these many years since. We have a tendency to judge each other quickly and often harshly. What we often find is that our judgements are wrong if we look a little closer.
I thanked Mr. Ganz very much for his generosity. I apologized for blurting at him and I took the bread gratefully. I put it to the most appropriate use I could think of. We used it at church that Sunday for communion. And I told the story, quite sheepishly, about what I had learned about open hearts and open minds from Mr. Ganz.
Tim Ives is the Pastor at Scarborough Presbyterian Church.