Do you know your neighbors? It is really a question that all of us should ask ourselves. Not necessarily because they’re dangerous, or even because there is something scandalous happening behind their closed doors, but because we should know the people around us.
The reason that I bring this up is because while I was in Connecticut, I continued to meet people because of very old fashioned neighborly reasons. Then, over a conversation at dinner, it really made me think about what does it mean to know or not know who your neighbors are.
I grew up watching Sesame Street and following that was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Both shows devoted entirely around the idea of neighborhoods, working together, growing together and ultimately what it means to be a good neighbor. That idea, be a good neighbor, I have grown in my adulthood to think that it has become an American value of the past. Visiting Connecticut though has definitely made me aware that we are still focused on being a good neighbor in neighborhoods that are working together.
When my friends Christina and Joel first moved to Mansfield three years ago, they didn’t know anyone except for the people that Christina was going to grad school with. Shortly after their arrival, they met their neighbors Jill and Chuck. With a very adolescent friendship, Jill and Chuck let Christina and Joel borrow their truck for three weeks when Joel’s Jeep took a sad trip to the mechanic. That is the kindness of people that I know is around us every day yet we are so often unfortunate to not see it.
Three years later, the four of them are best of friends and Jill and Chuck are the godparents to Christina and Joel’s son Catcher. Now that they have Catcher, another great example of neighborly greatness can be shared.
Down the street, there is another couple in a similar situation as Christina and Joel. The husband is in graduate school at University of Connecticut and the wife is working from inside the house and taking care of their three children. Together, both families work together for meals, daycare, grocery shopping and what other daily obstacles come up while raising a household. This is a community using reciprocity at its most basic form and it works; by being neighborly.
While I was staying with Christina and Joel, I had an amazing cooked dinner over at Jill and Chuck’s house. As we sat down and Chuck told us about the latest amazing home brewed beer, we got laughing about their cat Freddie. Freddie is an inside/outside cat who has happened to become very popular on their block. To the point that when Jill and Chuck finally went over to say hello to their neighbors after two years, the first question out of their mouths were, “Is your cat Freddie?”
Now that they know all of their neighbors though, they can help each other out and form that camaraderie that comes along with knowing your neighbors in the neighborhood you call home. It helped Jill and Chuck this winter when after another storm dumping another twelve inches of snow, they asked their neighbors who plows the driveway.
Growing up in my small town of four hundred in Wisconsin, you had to know your neighbors. All of the kids played together and it was necessary to have that relationship with the other parents when the children were so close. No parent likes to go up for an argument with their children about what time to be home without the support and team of another parent involved. Children get creative and our parents really knew where each other stood. Even in the trailer park where there was always a visual on us, my mother still knew our neighbors well enough for them to be able to say, “Is your mother ok with this?” and that neighbor would know the truth.
It isn’t necessary to establish these strong relationships with one another, or even become friends for the matter, but it is good to say hi, how are you? Find out a little about them so you can watch out for one another if at any time you need to. Neighbors make up our communities and if we are going to work together in those communities, then a little knowledge and a friendly smile can help in huge ways once in a while.