From the Archives: Leaves, Neighbors, and Creative Confrontation

By C. Milton Grannum

One morning I preached a message on creative confrontation. I emphasized that life has conflicts, that simply avoiding conflicts is not always an appropriate Christian response, and that peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather a deep settled confidence that one has chosen the most appropriate options and attitudes in the conflicts of life.

The sermon seemed to strike a responsive chord in many of the congregation. One of the men remarked to me later, “Pastor, I think that is one of the best sermons you have done in three and a half years.”

After the service we brought a friend home for dinner. On the ride home, we discussed the need of Christians to learn to express themselves and their feelings honestly and even if it means respectful and creative confrontations.

On arriving home, we noticed that someone had dumped several high piles of leaves on the side street by our home. Who could have done a rotten thing like that? I thought.

My sons and I had spent most of Saturday raking our leaves. The city trucks were coming to remove them, and so we worked hard all day. Because we were unable to get our leaf blower started, we had been forced to use rakes and work much harder than we would have ordinarily. Most of our neighbors were using their leaf blowers while we raked and raked and rakes some more.

We had left home for church Sunday morning with a real sense of pride that all the leaves were raked and gone. Imagine our surprise and frustration when we found that someone had dumped all those piles of leaves—probably at the same time I was preaching about creative confrontations, about not allowing ourselves to be used as doormats simply because we are Christians!

“What are you going to do about it?” my wife asked.

“I’ll think about it and decide,” I replied.

C. Milton Grannum

Of course, I thought I knew exactly who did it. It was our new neighbor. In fact, he was in his backyard, still blowing his leaves. “How am I going to deal with this man?” I wondered aloud. He and his family had just moved into the neighborhood and seemed very unfriendly. He must have done it!

As I calmed my spirit and settled down with the newspaper while dinner was being prepared, my wife asked me a very perceptive question: “If a member of our church had sought your counsel on that problem, what advice would you have given based on today’s message?”

I got her message. I decided I had to act. “I’m going over there right now to confront him on this matter,” I said.

“I’m going with you,” my wife said.

I would rather she had not decided to come with me. I might have gone halfway and then decided to make a more “spiritual” response, such as, “I’ll leave him to God,” or “Sometimes one has to suffer for Jesus’ sake,” or “He’s probably my thorn in the flesh.” My wife’s decision to come with me meant that I had to go all the way and see the thing through. She was forcing me to practice the morning’s message.

As we crossed the street, we saw the neighbor in his open garage at the back of his house. Some of his leaves were in piles in front of his house. They, too, were oak leaves like the piles by my house.

“Hello,” I shouted.

I knew he heard me, but he did not reply. He looked, and I waved. Still no response.

“I am going to deal with this right now,” I decided as we marched up his long driveway toward him.

“Hi,” I began, “I am Dr. Grannum, your neighbor across the street. This is my wife. We just drove in and noticed that someone has dumped several huge piles of leaves on the street by the side of our house.”

“Yes,” he replied, “and I actually saw the person who did it. It was a young fellow in a blue truck. I think he does landscaping around here. I lost my cool with him this morning when I saw him doing that. I rushed out of my house and ran over to stop him from dumping the leaves there. The only reason I let him go is because he convinced me that he had spoken to the city truck driver. The driver told him he could dump them there since the city trucks would be returning to pick up the rest of the leaves. But I told the young fellow to find somewhere else to dump any more leaves.”

“Well,” my wife remarked, “we are glad you were here to stop him. We really appreciate that. By the way, I’m Hyacinth.”

“And I’m Milton,” I added.

“I’m Bob,” he replied.

We crossed the street and started back to our home. My wife broke the silence. “What conclusions might we have made had we not gone over?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “we could have left him to God, felt persecuted as Christians, suffered for Jesus’ sake, felt socially or racially abused, and felt the need to keep our eyes on him and his family for the next five years.”

On our return to the house, our dinner guest asked, “How did it go?”

My wife was quick to respond: “Well, he went over as Dr. Grannum and came back as Milton.”

Bishop Dr. C. Milton Grannum and his wife, Rev. Dr. Hyacinth Bobb-Grannum, are the founding pastors of the thriving New Covenant Church of Philadelphia. Article originally published in the August 16, 1987, issue of Vital Christianity. Republished by permission.

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