A Quaker’s response to a man who is a bully
Kaye Wright, Victoria Regional Meeting
I had known my neighbour, Kelly, for over twenty years. He was a tall, gruff man who was born overseas. He spoke English, but poorly. He once told me that he often felt frustrated because he could not always make himself understood.
He loved his garden and his animals. He never had his cats desexed and three gorgeous orange male cats wandered away… But I knew he still loved them.
He was very concerned about the money that was spent on community projects. Kelly believed that (for most of the time) we were being over-charged and cheated by our Owners Corporation Management. His way of voicing his concern was by yelling.
Kelly’s behaviour became much more volatile in the recent Covid times. I was on the Owners Corporation Committee, and one day he came to my house yelling (literally) about something and was mostly incoherent. I listened but then slowly I lost my temper and raised my voice as loud as I could (without yelling) and told him to “get away from my house and not come back!”. I remember this day as it was the day of the earthquake… a tumultuous day in more ways than one.
After this confrontation, I felt very shaken. I knew that Kelly had mental health problems. I knew he was in distress. I knew that he was not at peace. But I was afraid of him.
I have come to know that I have a propensity for paranoia when I feel threatened or unsettled. I had to do some swift talking to myself to stop my fear getting out of hand. He was still my neighbour. He was still a man who was not at ease with himself or the world.
During our “altercation” neither of us swore or made nasty personal remarks about the other. I believe this may have saved us.
I laid on the bed and wondered how I should approach this. I prayed for Kelly and for me and our relationship. I covered us all with light. I could not really see a way forward.
Meanwhile, two other members of the Owners Committee resigned. One moved out! I thought of resigning too but that would only leave one kind and gentle man left on the committee and that did not seem right.
I kept thinking of Kelly off and on and always sent him light but still felt sad and uneasy about our relationship and the state Kelly must be in.
One day, I was driving out of the complex and saw Kelly coming in (on foot). Our eyes met. Neither of us looked away. Neither of us smiled but we did not look away from each other.
I knew enough to know that I did not want to create an “us and them” situation. I did not want Kelly to be my enemy. I did not want to be Kelly’s enemy. By looking away, I would have treated him as invisible. I knew this was not Spirit’s way.