Chancing Compassion

As of Tuesday, the minor work on the Hügelzaun/berm divider has already been undone in one section, the most important section to me. In one sense, it is likely part of a larger positive step. At the same time, there is some sadness in it, which I alluded to in my previous post.

In that post, I did not share one of the photos I had taken. It is this one and it shows the buildings on the property bordering the back edge of my lot. There are old rolls of carpet to the right, just out of the frame.

When I came home for lunch on Tuesday, I went to investigate a sudden amount of loud activity over there. The building with the blue tarp hanging from the roof was being demolished. I chatted with the two guys doing the work a bit. They thought the house was being flipped. They asked if I was okay with them driving their equipment on my property a little in order to get good position to clean the debris, even though it would probably tear up the soft ground. I told them it was fine. A day or so later I went to look. The ground was not too bad, but my first branches of the mound structure were gone. I had to laugh at the sweat I had poured into moving them into position just days prior! No matter.

But, this whole thing has made me reflect again about that house and my interactions. I am a bit sad. I keep asking myself if I should be carrying guilt.

There have been a couple of times in the past few years when I knew I should think carefully and choose my decisions carefully in otherwise somewhat ordinary scenarios. Overall, I had the luxury of time to think through those decisions. But, I sensed that these particular decisions would carry forward.

Regarding this adjoining property, there were many times in the last year when I could have called the police, when I considered at least officially documenting some things, when I could have chosen to be angry and take a hard stance. When I bought the house, there was a “No Trespassing” sign that specifically faced that house and was nailed high up on one of my trees. I should have realized that was a red flag. That sign mysteriously was on the ground several times before I just took it inside.

I never did call the police on my neighbor or his associates. I never did try to verbally (or in writing) stop the trespassing (though I was mentally designing trees/shrubs along that line but had not gotten to the Hügelzaun idea–as a screen and demarcation, knowing it would not be an absolute barrier). Most importantly, to me, I think, is that I was genuinely caring and open when I did interact with the guy who lived there. I listened to his story, even if I did not buy his wares.

He no longer lives there (though I think he is still alive, somewhere). Everything about the situation is tragic. When we witness tragedy, including slowly unfolding tragedy, we wonder if we could have done something to prevent it. I guess this is a mild form of moral injury.

But, every time my mind wanders there and analyzes it, the answer is honestly “no.” I could not save him from the path he was on, and it would have been condescending for me to assume so. I can feel sorrow for the pain without shouldering guilt that is not mine.

Which brings me back to those moments of clarity–clarity not of how to proceed in my interactions with him but clarity that, whatever my decisions, my actions were important.

I am grateful that something nudged me to pause, to evaluate, to proceed carefully, and err on the side of compassion, both this time and in a few other recent times.

I read a sentence on another blog today (Magdalene’s Mission):

He [a particular volunteer] makes it possible for suffering people to survive so they can figure a way out of the dark places.

Peace, Love, & Hygiene, Vol. 72

As least I did not add to the darkness. I hope he finds his way.

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