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Neighborly problems can be solved with understanding

In his classic story "The Great Divorce," about the divorce of heaven and hell, C.S. Lewis describes the journey of a person taking a bus trip to visit heaven. As this person asks his guide why such a large downtown as hell has so few people living there, the guide replies, "The trouble is that they're so quarrelsome. As soon as anyone arrives he settles in some street. Before he's been there twenty-four hours he quarrels with his neighbor. Before the week is over he's quarreled so badly that he decides to move . . . But even if he stays . . . (he's) sure to have another quarrel pretty soon and then he'll move on again . . . "

And so it is with us. How many times have you heard, felt or said, "I can't deal with this anymore, let's just move."

We live in communities and drive on the same roads with the non-verbal understanding that we are doing our best. But living side by side we are open, vulnerable, and over time will inevitably experience situations both difficult and delightful. When difficult, it is easy for us to react defensively and look questioningly at the neighbors we thought we knew. When something goes sour — from the non-returned WeedEater to a character slander — we feel hurt and instinctively pull away.

But in these times one thing stands true: what is important is that we love. Love is simple and complex, and for everyday people like ourselves, it is the constant push-pull of our soul, our strongest feelings of justice and mercy, right and wrong, and the ability to still love somewhere in-between.

This is not pretending that we didn't see it, feel it or know it. It's looking beyond what we see, feel and know to a fuller understanding, believing that every person is trying his best just to get up, breathe and face the day. And for many, even that can be a Herculean task.

Richard Bach said in his book "Illusions" that people in our lives are there for a reason; what we choose to do with them is up to us. We can pull away, and for a time that may be necessary. But our gut knows that, in the end, true happiness is found in learning how to stay connected in the face of emotional separation. Someone once said that we are here to learn how to taste of the bitter cup without becoming bitter. Loving while hurting is one of the hardest things we can do. But purposeful pain is a powerful teacher, if we let it be, and as we seek for deeper insights from a higher source, we can find the purpose in it.

If you are experiencing an emotional challenge, try to look at it another way. Take a time out in a different place, mentally or physically, and look at the situation with an open viewfinder, without blame. As you desire and ask for peace you will see it, feel it and know it.

As someone once said, "People are human, get over it." And more so, go through it, be a part of it, don't avoid it. Perceiving and embracing people as people, with all the wonderful, weird and wounding things we do, also helps us to embrace those things within us.

LIFEChange Tip: When going through an emotionally difficult experience, ask "What can I learn from this? How can it bring me closer to truth?"

Book Pick: "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis

Connie Sokol is a wife and mother of six who has her own business.