Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

By: Shino Prater

When I first moved to New Jersey and began to settle into my new neighborhood, I started meeting those that live around me. As I made my rounds everybody began to tell me about one of our notorious neighbors. They said to be careful with old man Mark, he’s meaner than a copperhead rattlesnake! Legend had it when the youth baseball fields near our homes were built, he called City Hall and said the PA system was too loud for the games and that they needed to get rid of it.

Well one day I met him. It didn’t start off too well. I woke up one morning to find him on my property walking around the house. He was looking at my trees. I went outside and asked if I could help him… he told me I needed to cut down my trees because they were dead. I laughed, but he didn’t. I researched how much it was going to cost, but he said he didn’t care. The next day I had a city official out on my property, telling me to cut the trees down. I was so angry! He became public enemy number one for me.

But it’s funny how things work out. A few months later I was busy running around town, taking my kids to cheer practice and football practice — I was not paying attention, and my car ran out of gas. I was stuck at the bottom of the hill near guess-who’s house. That’s right! Old man Mark. I had to swallow my pride and knock on the door asking for his help. He looked at me, grinned, and said yes.

As we were driving he asked me how I ran out of gas. I told him about my son playing football for the local team. He said his kid used to play for them as well. And that’s where things began to change. It was the start of our new friendship.

As we talked, he shared his struggles as a father with his son, and I just listened. Our discussions changed over time, and my perception of him changed too. I began to go out of my way to make sure to say hi and start up a conversation when he was outside. Somehow along the way we became good friends. I would go over and help him move furniture, and he’d help me with my yard.

The more time we spent together, I had a couple of chances to pray for him. I never knew that our interactions would impact his life. He eventually became a Christian and started going to church in Pennsylvania. It was refreshing to hear how his life changed when he found the Lord.

The point I want to make is: you may hear things about people, but try to understand what they’ve gone through. Stop, look, and listen… you may be the answer to their prayers. Over the last five years old man Mark and I have become good friends!

We all have the choice. Are we going to write people off when they rub us the wrong way? Or will we press in a little, give them new chances to change our perceptions of them, and give God room to use those moments? Let’s be a people who push past the uncomfortable moments in order to reach our neighbor.