A Brief History:
A little over a year ago we moved into a new house. New to us– it has been sitting on its foundation since 1930. It is a quaint European Romantic garden house that sits up on a hill in the old country club district. A retired landscape architecture professor had lived there since 1977. The backyard garden alone was reason enough to buy the house. The neighborhood is awesome and we were surprised by the number of families. I say neighborhood because it was developed before World War II when character and front porches were more important than repetitive boxes and three car garages. We moved from our small bungalow next to the hospital because we were running out of space and knew we needed something we could grow into. After researching properties for over a year and a half this house was the one we fell in love with. I don’t have to fight traffic after any event at Stephen’s, Scheman, Hilton, or Jack Trice. I get to tailgate in my yard. My driveway is a sought after commodity for friends and family during football season and VEISHEA. Central campus is another park. There has to be a catch right? The hill it rest upon resides across from sorority circle. We sit at the crux of greekville and the country club district. We are hailed in the neighborhood as helping to stop the spreading plight of college kids moving into houses their absentee landlord parents bought. We unofficially became the neighborhood sentry.
Living across from sorority circle would scare a lot of people, and most likely did considering the length of time this house sat on the market. There was an understanding certain things would have to be tolerated living here. Having two growing boys live across the street from “honey hill” will present an interesting challenge, our street gets closed twice a year for Greek events, and the crowd at Jack Trice or VEISHEA can be measured by the number of beer cans in my front yard the next morning. However, most things people would find annoying or bothersome Hollie and I enjoy and find humor in: from occasional midnight fraternity streakers, to the bed races that go right by our house during Greek Week, to watching the cliques of freshman girls parade by during rush week. The neighborhood is always youthful and vibrant. People are coming and going all hours during any season– I like that. It makes it an actual neighborhood, and keeps Hollie and I youthful with one foot still in Iowa State. Plus, the months of May to August can only be compared to a reverse resort community– it’s eerily dead. I state all of this to show there were no visions of grandeur moving here. I am not the old prude that lives near college kids so I can then complain about said kids to no end.
The First Adventure at Sorority Circle:
This brings us all to Sunday night. As we arrived home from bible study two young people of the female persuasion were smoking in our front yard. When I say front yard it was really the parkway between the street and the sidewalk. After moving from the bungalow by the hospital I thought we had escaped the front yard ash tray. (Mary Greeley has a no smoking policy on all their grounds, which caused every smoking nurse and visitor to walk across the street and use our front yard as a smoke lounge. Strangely only our front yard. I chalked it up to the fact we had the best house and lawn on the block. Smokers still want great atmosphere.)
We got the boys in bed and as I descended the stairs I noticed they were still out there. I thought perhaps they had chosen to smoke there because our house was dark and they figured they wouldn’t be bothering or offending anyone. Alas, that was hardly the case as they remained after watching us pull in and unload our boys. I debated whether to venture out and approach the two ladies. I did not want this to become a habitual activity in my front yard. I needed to step out and get my stuff from the Jeep, so I took that as an opportunity to strike up a conversation. As I approached them from behind they were so consumed in their chatty conversation I ended up scaring them half to death in the darkness.
“Good evening ladies, are you guys from across the street?”
“Oh, I was just wondering.” (I wanted to pinpoint their location to keep tabs on who I was dealing with) “I was just wondering what the allure was to smoke in my front yard versus your front yard?”
“Oh, we’re not smoking,” as said girl held a cigarette with an orange ember tip between her fingers; the one I had just seen her light as I approached from behind. “Well, I mean…”
“Well, I was just wondering.”
“We just liked this spot better. Besides this is public property, we have the right to be here,” the other girl spoke up.
“Okay. Well I was just wondering if it would be alright then if I grabbed a cigar from my garage and light up in your front yard?”
A half hearted “sure, yeah” came from both of them as they contemplated whether I was bluffing. (I did have cigars in the garage, I did not plan on stooping to their level– yet.)
“All right. Well, I wanted to let you know I just reseeded this lawn and I don’t want to have to deal with cigarette butts in my yard and people ruining my work.”
I received a couple of aloof okays and they proceeded to remain in place and continued their conversation after I wished them goodnight. I retired to the house and laid in bed for the next hour or more contemplating every possible vengeful action I could inflict upon them. I discussed with Hollie the proper course of action to take and we talked about why I stew and stew about such things. We decided if it continues the best option would not be for me to start smoking cigars in their front yard. Hollie quickly fell asleep thinking all was resolved and then my revenge engine kicked in high gear.
The first thoughts that entered my head were minor childish things. I contemplated smoking a cigar on their front yard, or sitting right next to them enjoying a cigar. My thoughts quickly moved to moving my car to the street and let it sit idling heavily in front of them. Perhaps it was time to water the lawn again. Then it soon moved to the sick and the twisted. I began to conspire a way to discover their names, track them for the next five years after graduation, and show up in their stuck up manicured suburban front yards as the creepy old guy sitting on their curb smoking a cigar as their three year old played out front. Then I went back to the simple but horrible: instead of parking my car in the street I could just drive it right over my front yard with headlights on high beam chasing them down the street. I stewed over this losing over two hours of sleep with a deepening pit in the bottom of my stomach. I awoke the next morning feeling a bit better, but found my think tank (shower) was filled with analyzing the vengeful thoughts of the night before.
Then comes Monday evening. As I sat down with my pint of bible study brew I opened to Romans. If you are familiar with my old SOAP blog you know I am currently marching through Romans by NIV subheadings. My plan had me on Romans 12:9-21 for the evening. “Love” was the subheading. Great, I thought, what is in store for the evening? God was not about to pull out the tack hammer, no tonight called for the ten pound sledge. As I read on, Paul began to apply what love should look like:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
As I wrote feverishly through my journal, conviction flowed out of my heart faster than the ink from my pen. I penned: perhaps I should have opened the scriptures rather than fume over a couple of sorority sisters. Prayer never entered my mind as I was consumed with filling it with the evil pleasure of revenge. I didn’t pursue prayer or scripture. I was sick of myself. Why do I actively try to avoid filling my head with images of evil and feel so self-righteous about myself that I avoid any confrontation with my imagination and reigning my mind in for God? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Perhaps, if God grants me a next time, I should grab one of those cigars, head down to the curb, ask for a light, and inquire about how their semester is going.