The difference between love and life

Originally Appeared in : 9813-6/21/18

Magan’s once-a-month ventures across the street to our neighbor’s hairdressing hut leads not only to a fresh look for my bride but also an unrequested update on the goings-on in and around our neighborhood. This usually includes (but is not limited to): crime reports, neighbor interactions and generalized gossip.


Following her most recent trip, Magan returned with a juicy nugget about a large Catholic family that had drawn the attention of a neighbor down the road.


“She (Magan’s hairdresser) said she ran into a Mrs. McGillicuddy (named changed for her protection) at Walmart just minutes after running into you and the kids the other day,” Magan said. “She said, ‘Did you see the Halcombes? Aren’t they just precious?’ to which Mrs. McGillicuddy replied, ‘You talking about that big family with all the kids? I just don’t like them.”


“Who is she?” I said, honestly ignorant. “I’ve never heard of Mrs. McGillicuddy before. Where does she even live?”


“Her husband is the big guy who goes for walks in tight polo shirts,” Magan explained.


“Oh, I gotcha. He’s always super nice when we pass each other during my runs. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her outside before. I wouldn’t worry about it.”


The kids didn’t heed my advice, however, with their hurt feelings transforming into variations of “Mrs. McGillicuddy is not a very nice person.”


We put this tense neighborhood melodrama to the test three days later when Magan converted our yard into a game-filled fun zone for our annual Halcombe Homeschool Field Day. There were stations for egg tossing, balloon tossing, wheelbarrow racing and balloon racing. Translation: Expected decibel level increases for the neighborhood.


Before we could even get things kicked off, Noah whispered, “There she is,” pointing to a man in an undersized white polo shirt, his wife and their West Highland White Terrier rounding the corner just up the street.


“We should all start screaming,” Noah said with a wry grin.


“Yeah,” Simon agreed with the same smile.


I quashed the potential uprising with a, “Come on guys. Let’s be nice.”


Field Day went on without a hitch, and surprisingly few obnoxious outbursts from the competitors, with nearly a half dozen broken eggs on the driveway, a rainbow of burst balloon rubber across the yard and kids hopped up on mostly sugar prize-bucket fodder.


To continue the fun-filled theme of the weekend, two days later we carried the kids to Warner Robins to the Toys R Us closeout sale in search of potential Christmas/birthday stock up opportunities...and the local pizza buffet.


As I walked up to the soda fountain to refill our drinks, I was met by a man roughly the same size and build as our neighbor who stopped me and said, “I just want you to know, I’ve been watching your kids. It’s so rare to see seven brothers and sisters treat each other the way yours have. You should be proud.”


Needless to say, I had my chest poked out a little bit more as I carried my pair of Pepsis back to our tables to share the compliment with Magan and the kids.
When we made it home, Noah relayed a “That’ll show her” statement towards Mrs. McGillicuddy followed by a, “Why doesn’t she like us. She doesn’t even know us.”


“Noah, you need to realize that God didn’t say that we should expect to be loved by everyone,” I said, “but he did say we are expected to love everyone. That includes loving those who don’t like us like Mrs. McGillicuddy.”


“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is a common reference to this, but another equally common is, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).


Now, the kids are planning to do their best imitation of those penguins from the Madagascar movies when they see Mrs. McGillicuddy and, “Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”


So next time Magan heads to the hairdresser, who knows? Maybe the gossip will be about how all those Halcombe children smile and wave at everyone like a bunch of Pollyannas, or better, like a bunch of good Catholics.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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