I am writing a shorter post this time, the 3rd and final post about the Harlem Hellfighters will come soon (not quite done yet), but I wanted to share an interesting story that happened earlier this week.
Last year, I wrote about a big argument I had with my neighbor, a wealthy old lady, about her large tree. After that argument, we never spoke to each other, but I still felt bad about the incident. I am still bitter toward her a little, but I also hoped we could make amends. Last week (a year after our last fight), I contacted them again with a letter, because I was worried that the tree is leaning more and more toward our house, which is dangerous. I made the letter polite and diplomatic, hoping it would give us a chance to forget the past, and start a more positive relationship.
The next day, I ran into the neighbors, and they had received the letter. The husband, an elderly man, said that he understood the problem and would work with me to do something about the tree. I was relieved to hear this. However, the wife talked to me in the same mean, condescending way that she did the last time we got into a fight. Clearly, she hadn’t forgotten our last fight. She was bitter about it, and was still insisting she was right and that she knew a lot more about gardening than me. The husband seemed embarrassed and tried to calm her down, but she didn’t listen.
Fortunately, this time I didn’t lose my temper. Instead, I just said, “I understand, I’m happy to work with you on this,” and I apologized again for the problem last time. She didn’t say a word and just gave me a cold stare.
It was kind of shocking, to be honest. Other neighbors (and her gardener) warned me that she has a domineering personality, and I realized they are right. No wonder her gardener calls her the “boss from hell”. When we fought before, I thought maybe I just misunderstood her, but now I realize that she just really is a mean person and I shouldn’t have antagonized her.
So, I learned an important lesson from this: you can’t please everyone.
You can try to make everyone happy, but someone will still hate you. Maybe they have a good reason, maybe not. To be fair, I started the incident last year, so she has reasons to dislike me, but I was hoping that we could make amends and I was wrong.
But I did sincerely apologize to her and her husband again, so I feel that I tried my best to make amends. If she still hates me, I won’t accept it and I won’t worry about it anymore.
Like the Buddha said in the Dhammapada (法句経, or ダンマパダ for Japanese readers):
81. Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.
222. He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins.
Every one of us probably meets people that are impossible to deal with. It’s a terrible challenge, but it helps to remember the Buddha’s words.