Career Soldiers with more than 50 years of service between them, MilSuccessNet guest writers Shaun and Pamela Collins have hardly gone to seed in “retirement.” They’ve tended their own well planted garden of career and lifestyle transition. It has yielded opportunities to apply their training and experience as they teach, travel, contribute to their community and write.
With fall’s arrival comes this column of practical advice on handling a neighbor with big eyes. It is reprinted with kind permission from their original column in The Guidon at Ft. Leonard Wood.
Here is this week’s question that they answer entirely in their own words …..
QUESTION: I have a small garden at my house, and when I mean small, I mean several potted tomatoes and two cucumber plants and one pepper plant. Barely enough for my own Family, but my neighbor asks me every day when am I going to be bringing him some produce.
……At first I thought he was joking, actually rubbing it in about the size of my “farm” but the other day my wife picked four cucumbers and he asked if he could have two. I wasn’t home, but he told my wife that I had said he could share the results. She brushed it off as joking, but he did not.
……He actually went to a farmer’s market, bought a flat of tomatoes, showed me the flat and said in a very curt way that he would have given me some, but not after the way my wife “hoarded” our stuff.
Besides this being a lesson about never living in housing again, what can I do? Currently our approach is just ignoring him.
HE SAID: Based on your perception of these events, this neighbor is clearly a “class act” (in my sarcastic and humble opinion); my only question is what have you lost?
I think you have gained far more than you have lost just on the merits of this single encounter. You now know the pettiness of this individual and you know that you should establish clear and distant boundaries.
This isn’t about produce, this is about character — he is a taker; a drama thriving selfish individual that you do not need in your life.
So from my perspective, lesson learned without any serious damage done.
My wife and I garden. When our harvest in plentiful, we share with our friends and neighbors; but none of them expect it. They are simply appreciative of what our garden produces that we cannot use before it goes bad and there is not enough to put up as preserves (and they always do the same when they can).
I would not just ignore him> Furthermore, I would cut him out of your lives like cancer in every way possible. People like this are toxic; they thrive on being the victim and winning even when there is nothing to win.
Sometimes we learn about these character flaws after decades of investment and the cost can be extremely high when you realize someone like this is all about themselves and getting the last “dig”, not friendship, caring, or fairness … Consider yourselves lucky and find friends worthy of your time, consideration and compassion.
SHE SAID: Do what you’re doing.
Some people will never get it. They have a level of expectation that, no matter what you say or do, they will never understand why you give, don’t give, etc.
It’s like you owe them because you have it and they want it. I don’t understand it, either.
My theory is they were never told “no” as a child, but it’s just a theory. I lived in housing on and off for many years — that’s not it. They’re everywhere.
If he ever decides to broach the issue again, you can tell him you don’t owe him anything. He’s not your child, your spouse, or your parent.
He’s your neighbor. Neighbors can give freely when they want to, but there is no rule that requires you to provide him with part of your bounty simply because he thinks you have more than you need.
If he wants to live this way, he needs to join a commune.
And that’s the last word from our He Said She Said guest writers and their original column in time for harvest season. Hope it helps!
Got questions? Send ’em over via the contact form and we’ll ship them over to Pamela and Shaun Collins to answer.