My niece called last night very upset. She had taken a break in her hectic holiday preparations to spend the day devoted to her neighbors. Her thanks for all her efforts was a simple “thank you” and the door slammed in her face.
Neighbors on both sides of her had had babies within the last several weeks. Wanting to be a good neighbor, she went shopping for appropriate baby gifts and a package of diapers and then made a pan of her special home-made lasagna for each neighbor. She even included baking directions and the recipe in case anyone had food allergies. Arms full of goodies, she and her three-year old son went next door to make her first delivery. The husband/new father met her at the first home, took the offerings, said “thank you” and closed the door. Ditto for the second delivery however he included a “God bless you”. There was no offer to come in and see the baby or even a friendly “how ya doin’”. Even her young son observed the cold reception.
In trying to analyze what happened we looked at several possibilities. In both cases it was the husband/father who answered the door so was it just a guy thing? Also, in both cases they were of different races so was it a racial or cultural thing? Were they so shocked that someone was actually reaching out and trying to be a good neighbor they didn’t know how to react?
During our discussion she made a comment that really made me think. She said she was used to sitting on the front porch and waving and saying “hi” to everyone who passed by that she thought everyone did the same. Yes, we were raised in a front porch community. We knew all of our neighbors and spoke to people walking down the street. Even if we did not know the people we would smile and nod.
Front porch communities are now a thing of the past. Most new homes haven’t had front porches for many years. We retreat into our environmentally controlled homes and many times don’t even know our next door neighbors. Gone is the Norman Rockwell world where children can play freely. Today we are afraid of molesters and drug addicts roaming the neighborhoods. We are caught up in our own busy lives and fail to think about those around us. But what kind of community do we have when neighbors don’t know neighbors? What kind of world are we creating? This isolationism only opens us up to more crime. If no one is looking after us we are vulnerable to those of bad intentions.
My disappointed niece said, “I don’t get it, I was just trying to be a good neighbor.” In this holiday season let us all try to take time to be a good neighbor. Smile and say, “hi”. Offer to look after their place while they are gone for the holidays, offer to take in their mail and newspapers. Take them a batch of homemade cookies. We will be much safer if we take time to look after each other.
It seems we are light years away from Norman Rockwell’s ideallic world but bring back the front porches and perhaps we can recapture a portion of that world. A simple smile and, “Hi neighbor” can do wonders. The next time someone brings a batch of cookies or pan of lasagna to your door at least invite her in. It could be the beginning of a great friendship. As the Good Book says, “Love thy neighbor.”