Exceptionalism better left understated

Photo of San Francisco Botanical Garden "Great Lawn" taken by Stan Shebs, June 2005

Photo of San Francisco Botanical Garden “Great Lawn” taken by Stan Shebs, June 2005

There exists a neighborhood somewhere in America.  It doesn’t matter where it’s located but there, people get along fairly well; not an ideal example of communal self-sacrifice but folks do manage to come to each other’s aid most times when needed.  There is the occasional flare-up that causes this faction of families to support that one but, all in all, a tenuous peace exists that let’s everyone enjoy the blessings that are suburban living.

The houses are mostly well-kempt with the surrounding yards equally so.  In fact, there are a few homes that stand out as being extremely well maintained, the lawns a vibrant sea of green against a kaleidoscope of painted flora.  Of course, there are some who let the grass grow beyond the standard and receive the occasional municipal summons.  These spaces, below par, get the occasional raised eyebrow from the other more pristine owners.

There is one neighbor who, by all accounts, has the best looking lawn in the neighborhood.  The problem is that he fully knows it.  Worst still is that he never misses an opportunity to let his fellow homeowners know it as well.  It makes for some pretty dicey community mixers, let me tell you.  Men don’t like having the quality of their lawns called into question.

Yet this same guy is always the first to provide advice about maintenance and upkeep, or to physically lend a hand.  It’s true he has the best equipment and, even others begrudgingly admit, the most knowledge about lawn care.  Still, his aggressive, know-it-all attitude strikes his neighbors the wrong way.  They don’t listen to him; sometimes they don’t even accept his offers of help.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the eggplant parmigiana his wife makes for parties, he probably wouldn’t get invited to many affairs.  It helps him too that his children are friends with most of the other families’ kids in the hood.  But the problem there is that some of his egocentric tendencies are rubbing off on the younger members of the clan; a sea change that doesn’t bear well for continuing neighborhood relations.

What he fails to realize is that a sense of exceptionalism without some prerequisite modesty becomes bravado which in turn is unappreciated by one’s peers.  I guess it’s something of a human condition that no man really wants to have it seem that he doesn’t know a damn thing, even when it happens to be true.  Maybe it’s even more so especially then.

And the more this guy tries to assume a mantle of leadership among his fellow homeowners, the more resistance mounts from within his neighbor’s ranks.  Sometimes even those he calls friend are put off by his pompous, superior attitude; which is truly a shame because he does have something to offer others in the form of practical knowledge, material assistance and most important, friendship.

If he were smarter, he’d learn that the key to being exceptional is not having the thought come out of your own mouth but rather it lies in having others call you so.  If he did then things would be a lot less tricky during those summer barbecues




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Filed under Opinion, Politics and Government

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