Last night, for the third time in as many weeks, the neighbor’s dog started barking around 1 a.m. I need a lot of sleep to be a civilized human being – somewhere around eight hours. Every night. When I don’t, I feel awful. I don’t just feel a little sleepy. I feel like death when I don’t get enough sleep. So, when my sleep is disrupted, I get very upset. Maybe I could say I get angry. That would probably be fair.
Last Thursday night I was awake from 1 a.m. until about 5 a.m. because of the neighbor’s barking dog. I had to call my morning teaching job and tell them I was not competent to teach English. I was simply too tired. Last night, I decided there was no POSSIBLE way that my neighbors could not hear their German Shepherd barking every 3 1/2 minutes. I also didn’t feel like missing out on teaching – for my students sake, as well as for mine. So, I got out of bed and knocked on the neighbor’s door. It was about 1:15 a.m. They seem like nice enough people during the day. I don’t know them well, but I’ve spoken with them several times. Their dog sucks. They have one of those big German Shepherds, and they just keep it in the backyard. It is outside all day while they’re at work. It barks off an on throughout the day. I’ve never seen them take it for a walk, or even let it in the front yard. Whatever. People have different ideas about how to treat dogs. I just couldn’t believe I was having to lay in bed and listen to someone’s dog drive me insane.
It was surprising to me that I was willing to stand on their porch and tell them to make their dog be quiet, but this is the kind of thing I’m ready to do when I’m really desperate for sleep. I didn’t want to call the police, because. . .because. I live in nice suburbs. Cops would seem extreme. I don’t live in the part of LA county where calling the cops is “normal” anymore.
I know it would freak me out if someone came to my door at 1:15 a.m. But I also know that if I had a barking dog and someone came to my door in the middle of the night to alert me about said dog, I would apologize. I would feel bad. I would not be bitchy about it. The dog went berserk while I was standing on the front porch waiting for someone to come to the door. When the wife came to the door, she opened it about 2 inches. I explained that the dog was keeping me up and that it had happened several times in the past. I apologized for bothering her. She said, “Well, there was something back there.” What? Give me a break, lady. Your dog is bored and clamoring for attention. It barks all day and sometimes all night. I didn’t say those last things out loud.
I don’t know if I did the “right” thing or not. I knew from experience that once that dog starts the nighttime barking, it never stops. I wish I had said something to them during the day last Friday, but I was hoping that it just wouldn’t happen again.
This brings me to my pop quiz: How do YOU feel about people?
I’ll tell you how I feel about people. I laid in bed last night, after the dog was quietly ensconced in their house and I stewed. I know this is not mature, and I wish I hadn’t, but I did. I thought to myself, “People suck.” People do dumb crap all the time – stuff like this and worse stuff. All of us can think of plenty of examples, I’m sure. By about 2 a.m. I was thinking thoughts along the lines of , “We’re all just a bunch of selfish, self-righteous creeps, basically.” I had several stellar examples of immature, selfish, obnoxious, disruptive people in mind as the leaders of my personal pack of people who suck. As I lay there, fuming, I had a horrible realization.
I’m a misanthrope.
You might think to yourself, well, Megan, that is unfortunate that you think people suck, and it is not a very nice way to go through life, and you sound like an immature cow, but that is your prerogative. Go ahead and think like that.
Here is the problem with that. Even if I was OK with the fact that I am sometimes a huge misanthrope – Jesus is not. I have signed up to follow Him, and to work in His kingdom, and to play by His rules. His most basic rule is to love my neighbor. Ha, ha, Jesus. Even if my neighbor has a barking dog that keeps me up when you KNOW I NEED MY SLEEP JESUS?
I’ve looked in the gospels, and I can’t find the caveat that gets me out of loving people. I know this is the most basic, boring, repeated sermon in Christendom: Jesus means love, and he means for us to love. I know love doesn’t mean getting walked all over, or not fighting for what is right, or not telling the truth to people. But it does mean after you’ve told the truth to a neighbor about a barking dog and they’ve put it inside, you should be able to go to bed, no matter how they treated you, and not stew and fume about how people suck. Ahem.
I like to tell myself that I have learned a lot about how to love people because Jesus has changed my heart so much over the past ten years. And that is true. But all it takes is some lost sleep to take me right back to a place where my thinking is all twisted up.
So here is my prayer for my exhausted, cranky self today: Lord, help me to think about people the way you think about them. Help me to consciously change the way that I think about my neighbors and people in general. Change my heart, God. For your son’s sake, for the world’s sake, for pity’s sake, change my heart.
Oh yeah, and please let my neighbors put that dang dog inside every night. Amen.