Meet my neighbors
As I prepared to go to work, my husband announced he threw out his back. He hobbled to the couch. After learning my mother would not be available for another hour, I ran down Tully Road to ask my neighbor if she could stay with the kids during the hour. She came.
When a verbal altercation with a friend left me in tears, I sat in the garage crying my eyes out while the kids went indoors. After texting a neighbor in a different direction, I took the kids down the street and unloaded my heart while our children played together. She listened.
In the evenings, the kids played in the front yard and welcomed home our next-door neighbors with stories of the day and facts about whales. The neighbors prepared bags of Halloween treats each year. They knew my children’s names.
When we moved
I asked the librarian to talk to her church. No less than 30 Mormon missionaries and volunteers helped us unload the moving truck. They back for additional trips, and set up our bed so we would have a place to sleep that night. We neighbors that day. They showed up.
Our neighbor drove across the busy Whitmore Ave with his children to feed our sheep and chickens, collect eggs, and water gardens. All so we could have a family vacation for the first time in ages. They helped.
On our part
We hosted parties, opening our doors and fences to invite others in, making music, playing games, and bonding with other families. They weren’t from our neighborhood, but they needed people. They accepted our invitation.
The next-door neighbor of our new home calls me to say he has not seen the kids out lately and offered us a harvest of watermelon. My children dashed over to visit the man who is another grandfather to them.
Across another street lives a busy family with school activities, work commitments and family commitments. They called and apologized for not coming to see us sooner. They brought brownies. A year can pass between visits, but we know them. And they know us.
I call to say “someone is stealing your cherries.” He calls to say “they’ll be sweeping almonds” so I might not want to line-dry my laundry that day.
Good fences make good neighbors, so the saying goes.
That is to say, good boundaries help when you live near one another. It’s ever so easy to take it too far, to come and go from our homes, to base our lives on outside activities, and when we are home, to take our leisure in our more private, more secluded spots. It is easy to live in this world without knowing our neighbors. Maybe you have friends. Maybe you have a family. Maybe you have a lawn service and really do not need any additional help.
But they might.
I interviewed Noelia Martinez while she hosted a block party for National Night Out. “You have to go up and above when it comes to elders. I love my elders,” she said with a laugh, “because one day I’m going to be there and I want people to do the same for me.”
In graduate school at an evening lecture on friendship, Dr. Michael Pakaluk rambled on, “You scratch my back and I scratch your back and everybody’s back gets scratched.”
Then you know, the other saying, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
We are born with an instinct to preserve our lives, to love ourselves, so to speak. From there we can learn by asking ourselves what it would be like for us in that situation. Would we want someone to reach out? Would we rather be alone?
Martinez said, “Maybe they are shy or scared to get involved or scared to be the one the neighbor calls on.”
Maybe we feel like it is not our business. That to inquire into someone’s well-being or why the homicide unit was at their house in the middle of the night will feel like prying.
Your neighbors know you are there. When you reach out, you communicate with your actions that not only are you there, but you are there for them.
And that feels good all around.