Friday, May 2, 2008

Book Posting, Number 1

As I said when I came back from my blog break, I'm hoping to post my reactions to the books I've read, here on my blog. You'll see by my posts, I just come by most books randomly. The one English speaking library here is small and the findings are often random. I could go in with a list of 10-20 books I'd love to read, and come out with 3 or 4 completely different ones that look good. In fact, most of my friends agree with me that they have never found the book they were looking for! I've read 6 books since I arrived, mostly chic lit, to sooth my crazy soul after days of unpacking and finding my way around Italy. I've finally read something I wanted to post about, so here it is...

As you know, we've had trouble with our neighbors. I've been able to pray about it and reflect on what in their life was making them so loud and inconsiderate of other people. Your comments after that post were so kind, but really I have to give the credit to a book I just read.

I can't honestly tell you why this book came into my life, but I know it was meant to be. It's a sad book and I tend to read only sad things that I know that I can handle. With my Dad's unexpected death just two years ago, a story of a dying father would not make the top of my "to read" list. I think I took it in the end, because it was about a pastor, and I already enjoyed the Mitford Series so much.

As hard as my Dad's death was on me, it was also so very hard for my Mom, so I'm sure you'd never think I'd find it on her bookshelves. But that's exactly where it was. I asked her after I read it, why she would buy such a sad book, so close to our situation? My Mom explained that it was a book from her book club, and normally she would never have bought it either.

The book is Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead, by Maril.ynne Ro.binson. Here is the paragraph that really changed how I was viewing my neighbors, and it's changed how I view everyone I meet as well:

"When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own light. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it."

So I've been working on this. Working on my usual reactions to the people and things that bother me. It's hard, after years of scoffing at those who walk too slow, at people who jump on the bus before I can get off with my big stroller, to change how I feel about them. I'm trying to look at slow walkers, as a question to myself, "Do you really need to get somewhere that fast? Can you slow down and enjoy the world around you?" I try to see the bus crazies as the question to myself, "Do you need to talk the bus? Could you benefit from exercise of walking and pushing a stroller instead?"

It's been helping a lot. Does anyone think about things like this when they're dealing with difficult people? Any recent situations you want to share, like with my neighbors?

3 comments:

*carrie* said...

Abbey,

Thanks for sharing your insights about this book. I read it last year, and had a hard time sticking with it. I'm glad to know it really "spoke" to you.

tootie said...

That is such a neat passage! I'll have to check out that book sometime.

It's true - each person that comes into our life is someone that we can learn from, or maybe that we can teach something to.

Good for you on your great attitude about the neighbors! Hopefully the situation is at least a little more bearable.

CanCan said...

I am a pretty empathetic person (usually) so when someone starts to irritate me in some way, I just try to think of them as needy human beings with their own problems, which have nothing to do with me. Kind of like you explained in the post about your neighbors. It is a nuisance to you, but their lives are so empty and sad right now. I know praying for someone like that helps me to love them more.
Not that it's easy!