I grew up in the small town of Lewisville, North Carolina. Perhaps it was sheltered place to go to elementary school or maybe the mind just pushes back unpleasant memories. Still I cannot remember anyone taking pleasure in another person's discomfort.
I can remember battling a bully or two and there were neighborhood disagreements but we still got together after school for some tackle football or baseball. We had forts in the woods and for the most part I can remember people accepting each other and not trying to deliberately embarrass someone.
Of course it was a different time. When someone was elected president of the United States, people rallied around the president instead pledging to make him fail. Politicians tried to compromise and sometimes in spite of themselves managed to do a few things right for the greater good of the country.
Things have gone a long way down hill since then and it has nothing to with the people coming into the country. The people who are the biggest problem have been here with us all the time and somehow have decided that punishing others is good sport.
As writer who has always tried to be fair and honest, I have crossed paths with a number of uncivil people on the Internet. I always comforted myself with the thought that people are not that way in person. I was wrong.
Two and one half years ago, I agreed to be on the board of our community's homeowner's association. It has been an eye opening experience. This summer alone I have had a mother on my porch screaming at me because I asked her boys to get out of the neighborhood swimming pool during a severe lightning storm. A couple of weeks ago, I had a lady call me and complain that the gate to the community was still open after weeks and someone, a real estate agent, had snapped a picture of her home. When I told her I had been calling the repairman and he could not speed up the repairs, she told me, "Maybe you have not been calling him enough." That is just the tip of the iceberg of what we have seen. There is nothing like someone screaming at you on the phone before breakfast to take the pleasure out of the day.
However, a recent special meeting of the homeowner's association took the cake. We were holding the special meeting because someone complained our rules which were passed at the most recent annual meeting were out of sync with our covenants in a couple of cases. The board had no intention of changing anything but a lawyer told us we needed to have the rules match the covenants. One of the rules we hoped to change was a never enforced one in the covenants that called for only sandblasted real estate signs. I was a real estate agent for a while and thought it would be simpler to let real estate agents use standard signs without us penalizing them. Certainly everyone could agree to that.
Like the Senate we need 67% to do anything. Unfortunately an unsuccessful meeting only needs a couple of people more interested in seeing you fail than passing something that might be good for the community. It did not take too long for the few community hotheads to get enough people stirred up that nothing passed. They were proud of themselves. Two even clapped when I said that I would not be running for the board again. It is sad because lots of hours of work and plenty of money went into organizing a meeting with a simple goal of making the community just a little better place to live. What it really did was make me question if I even want to live in such a divisive community.
What was most disappointing was watching someone let a secondhand version of a conversation I had with him be twisted into a lie. Instead of correcting the lie, he let it stand. As background during the summer we had people leaving the board like rats jumping off a sinking ship mainly because of the hostility of one person in the community.
Our board got down to two people, myself and the president and at one time both of us tried to resign. The fellow who would not stand up for the truth approached me during the summer with some board issues. During the pleasant conversation, we got around to talking about the board. I said something to the effect that we were going to run with our current two people until we could get our arms wrapped around a few things but would welcome help on the board. He said he had thought about being on the board in his previous community but went on to say that his wife had told him not even to think about being on a board. He never once said he was interested in being on our board. I did not think anything about it since we were already up to our necks in alligators and just trying to keep them at bay. At our special meeting I found he had been going around telling people that I said he could not be on the board. I guess that made a better story than saying his wife told him he could not be on the board.
Life always seems to have its challenges, you just have to stand up to them. Still it is hard when you are trying your best to do the right thing and have to follow the law which does not allow for special exceptions for neighbors.
It is really sad that so many people are gleeful at throwing hurdles in your way when you are just trying to do a job you were elected to do. I did not write the covenants in our subdivision and enforcing them to the nth degree was not what I signed on to do but we have homeowners threatening to sue if we do not enforce them and they are exactly the ones who want to make things hard and see you fail. Then there are the ones who signed the covenants without reading them and are now mad because they might be enforced. The best lie today was the board was considering foreclosing on someone for back dues. When the truth will not sell, always go for the sensational lie.
Unfortunately our homeowners association seems to be a microcosm of our society. There are lots of people out in the world who pretend they want to do good things to benefit others. However, when push comes to shove, they end up being the ones tripping the refugee child trying to run to freedom or the ones shutting down the government so they can force their religious beliefs on us all.
We should not let them win.