When I was young, I lived on a quiet street that was labeled ‘the block’. The 2700 block of Bolch Street was bordered on one end by a cross street that held a stop sign, and the other with a bayou. Although you could walk across the street in both directions, the red Stop sign and the water signified ‘the ends’ of our block. There was an unspoken isolation to it all, if you will. Along either side of the street were houses where our neighbors lived and we knew each and every one of them not just by name, but counted them as good friends. Even the eccentric Miss Martha, whose yard was overgrown and a bit ‘scary’ to the children of the neighborhood. The houses were close together, separated by chain-link fences in the back yards. Once a year, all of us would gather together to celebrate each other with a picnic. Daddy would grill hamburgers and hotdogs on a huge brick pit that he built himself, and everyone else would bring the rest of the food.
The rest of the year we interacted with each other daily. The kids would all gather together to play Kick the Can, Hide and Seek and Freeze Tag, (Hey, Jimmy! Apple Core! Baltimore!), while the mom’s would visit across the fence while they hung laundry out to dry. On many occasions you would find the adults at each other’s houses, gathered around the dining room tables, drinking coffee and discussing ‘important adult stuff’. As long as we didn’t hear our names being mentioned, everything was good.
As a young married adult, we lived in a similar neighborhood, but this one didn’t have houses across the street. Instead, we had the tennis and basketball courts of the Junior High School. Although we knew our neighbors, our interaction was limited, as most men and women had jobs, and our lives had become ‘busier’. Still, we strived to be available in times of need, and on a couple of occasions were actually called to help.
Here in the country, we don’t have a ‘block’ of neighbors. One lives directly across the street, but the others are separated by land and thick stretches of trees. Yet, in an odd way, we are just as close as in the ‘Old Neighborhood’. I think it is because of this spacing that we also find we have neighbors that live a mile down the road, five miles down the road and in some cases, fifteen miles down the road. We think nothing of heading out to assist these friends and neighbors in their times of need, and our own road has been traversed when we are in need of help.
With the advent of the Internet, society has seemed to lose touch with the old-fashioned sense of neighborliness. Not as much coffee is poured, the dining room table is either used only at meal time or as a receptacle for mail and stuff we are just too tired to put away. Neighborhood picnics are a thing of the past – life is just ‘too busy’ to stop and enjoy each other.
Yet, on the other hand, the Internet has broadened our neighborhood in a sense. Through this website, I have met some wonderful people who live multiple states away, yet I would definitely consider them my neighbors. Gary lives in Wisconsin, yet he serves the position of neighbor when he gives me encouragement in my writing, and shares his own thoughts and stories through his. Rae lives in Pennsylvania, and we have been neighbors through written word as pen pals since 2009, and just recently on line. Although if not careful, Internet can cause you to lose touch with people, it can also act to bring you together with those you may never have met otherwise.
Being neighborly is quickly becoming a lost art. It takes time and effort to become a great neighbor. But given the opportunity, it is well worth it to step away from the television, break out of isolation and take the time to visit. Fix a pot of coffee and invite your neighbor to come sit and talk for a bit. You would be amazed at the broadened horizons you will find, and the fun you will have. So take the time today to rejuvenate that lost art, and make it at least a daily, if not weekly, occurrence. Stop the cycle of busyness in your life, and hang over the fence and chat with your neighbor.
The coffee is on at Paradise, and there is plenty of room around the dining room table. I’ve cleaned it off, just for you!