Thursday, August 7, 2014

Redefining "kind"

Recently, I've been occupying the time during my final pump session by watching a TV series on A&E called "Longmire." In one episode, there's a story about a man who's trailer is being reposed by the bank for failure to make payments. The man pleads with the young deputy, asking for him to be a friend and show him a bit of kindness as this is his home. The deputy, in a moment of empathy, cut the man a check to cover his mortgage payment. A few scenes later it is revealed that this man took that money and used it for gambling. When the deputy confronts this man, the man pulls a gun, threatening him. It is only when the deputy's partner threatens to shoot the man that he lowers his weapon.

No good deeds goes unpunished.

Mel's post this morning struck a nerve with me. She talks about kindness and how important small acts of kindness are. Inherently and in an ideal world, I completely agree. Hatred and bitterness sow the seeds of discontent and many times it's the small things that recharge our sense of hope.

The problem is, I've been on the receiving end of a lot of pain and trouble because of what people deem as kindness.

In 2006, Grey and I purchased our first home. A condo on the north end of the city in a neighborhood that was "transitioning." Like many, we believed that homeownership was the logical next step (marriage, home, kids, etc) and intended on using the experience both as a means of saving money (rents were rapidly rising) as well as to prepare for our future house. Shortly after, the mortgage bubble popped. And like many Americans, we found ourselves in a situation where we couldn't sell. 8 yrs later, we've managed to hang on, making payments and meeting expenses. This in and of itself has been stressful.

The added stress is that we unknowingly bought into a building with criminals and people who are mentally ill. Until recently, we shared walls with a man who raped his 16 yr old daughter. On the other side we have a paranoid narcissist who uses email for harassing anyone he disagrees with and freely expresses his bigoted views about the world. The building has a meeting room that only board members have access too because someone once ran a prostitution ring out of it. There's been drug trafficking, with the previous owner of our unit actively trying to off himself by consuming massive amounts of cocaine. The nicest unit in the whole building was once condemned by the health department after the discovered it filled with heroine needles. And this is just the beginning of the stories.

Both Grey and I have been told we should write a book. Multiple times.

The current issue that is on the forefront of my mind regards a tenant who has a dog. When you first meet Fleur, one would assume that she is a harmless little old lady who is going deaf and who loves her poodle. But if you hang around long enough, talking with the neighbors, the interesting stories start to emerge. You find out that even though she's a self-proclaimed hippie, believing in love and peace, that she has a history of bullying other tenants. That she has taken to trespassing on neighboring properties and yelling at the owners when they ask her not to do so. That she allows her dog to run lose in the building, scaring other tenant and terrorizing other dogs. That she has built an agility course in her 500 sq ft unit to run this dog from 4 am to 12 am daily in order to exercise him because she can't be bothered to walk him. That we doesn't have a bathroom sink and her toilet has been leaking, which she refuses to fix. That she has zero sound-proofing under the hardwood floors that she installed and insists on wearing wooden clogs when she walks over them (despite repeat complaints and request to stop). That she refuses to put down area rugs because her dog will pee on them. That this animal whines constantly because she doesn't take him out enough to let him urinate. That she steals mail from other tenants. That she threatens to sue anyone who confronts her about her behavior.

That this is her third dog (the first disappeared and the other she rehomed after it was clear she was neglecting it).

That she has been foreclosed on. And has no housing options because she turned down the spot for senior housing.

That it is very likely she will be homeless by the end of summer, living under a bridge.

For 8 yrs, I've been told to look the other way with Fleur's behavior. When asked about getting a support system or working with her to train her dogs (which she has claimed to be "service dogs"), I've been told to stop harassing her. When asked about the floors, I've been told she has no money, so why try. All the while her bringing in contractors to remodel her bathroom (why there is no sink is beyond me). All in the name of kindness.

Needless to say, I'm beyond pissed about the situation. Early this summer I took it upon myself to try to find a solution that would get her a spot again in senior housing, hoping to give her an out from this situation. Ever single agency made it clear that either she needed to do this or she needed to be declared mentally unfit. When asked about relatives or support system, it dawned on me that it's been 3 yrs since anyone has visited. Likely due to her burning them out. Animal control won't help without extensive documentation and the police consider this a civil matter.

All of it has made me realize that we need to redefine "kindness." There's this assumption that enforcing rules, asking people to follow social norms and requiring compliance is not kindness. That by inhibiting someone from exercising something they view as a freedom, we are being mean.

The truth is, human beings require boundaries to function. Traffic laws exist to help create order. Rules need to be followed in order to help establish a sense of fairness and peace. Without these things, chaos ensues. It's not enough to tell people not to text and drive because every single person believes they are far better at multi-tasking then they actually are. And waiting for the "too late" always leads to the regrettable incident that could have easily been prevented.

Today is the deadline for Fleur to remove the dog from her unit. I don't know what is going to happen going forward because I've never been in this position of having to enforce rules like this. Fleur's response has been to threaten the HOA lawyer with a lawsuit (which he was amused by) and to stick a cross and garlic cloves outside her door in order to ward off evil spirits. In the meantime, the dog is getting more aggressive. Without someone to properly train him, he's taken to nipping at her and others as well as humping her. All bad signs. In the process of listening to others about kindness, a monster of a situation has been created. With people scheming about how to remove the dog, going so far to wish him an early death.

It sickens me. It angers me. It makes me hate my home.

If anyone wants to adopt a standard poodle that is about 9 months old, please let me know.


  1. are so much more kind and patient than I would have EVER been. Bless you. But I totally agree with people using the "kind" card to basically condone rude and bad behaviour. I hope you get it all figured out soon and restore some peace to your building (if that is possible considering the other issues you noted). One issue at time right?

  2. Wow! Poor dogs. I'm sorry you have such rotten neighbors. I can only imagine how stressful that must be.

  3. Whoa... that is an awful situation. I was talking about the acts of kindness that cost the other person nothing (or very little). Taking in a friend's kid for a few hours to give them a break, running an errand for someone else, giving someone 4 extra days with a library book. Little things that perhaps use up an hour of your time or patience, but which ultimately don't detract from your life. Moments that tell the other person, "I care."

    Did she ultimately get rid of the dog? That is an incredibly stressful home situation. Home, which is supposed to be an escape from the rest of the world acting in a selfish, annoying, dangerous manner.


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