I remember the opening song and the process Mr. Rogers would routinely perform, as he went to the closet and hung up his jacket and put on the sweater and changed his shoes. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” What a concept! The idea that strangers would be friends and form a lasting friendship.
I have some wonderful friends who live about 3, or more, houses from my house. The houses directly around me, for the most part, are not even “Hi, How are you?” neighbors. This is the only home we have lived in that this type of situation has occurred. In their defense…we do keep to ourselves. They tend to their yards with a group mentality…every weekend there are 5-6 of the houses, directly around me, with the ritual maintenance of weed control and pruning. The leaves are collectively blown into the cul-de-sac where they will gather to bag the leaves from all the yards. The neighbors that we talk to live in the houses outside this circle of neighbors.
There are times we stand in the street, catching up or discussing the weeks events, moving to the sidewalk to avoid being hit by passing cars. We stop and roll down the windows to chat…waving those behind us to go around. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” My little circle of neighbors gather together 2-3 times a year, at a central location, at the end of the street. At Halloween a Pot-Luck is set up in the garage and a grouping of chairs fill the driveway. Activities for the kids and a fire pit fill the area. The adults visit and plan the next gatherings during the holiday season. We decorate cookies at Christmas and put on plays…the kids are the actors in these presentations.
The houses in direct vicinity of my home, however, are unaware of these gatherings. I have been told, by those who have moved onto the street, that we are often described as not social people. “They hardly ever come out of their house”…”They are not very nice!”…”Oh..we don’t know much about them!” When I introduce myself people just laugh and we end up being friends. I have to tell them why we are seldom seen…”We stay busy with church activities and try and do something family oriented on my husband’s day off.” When we are outside in the yard…we must look like little green aliens and speak in a dialect unknown to them. This group of close-knit neighbors want nothing to do with us and have tried to get us to move. HeHe! We are still here…after almost ten years. “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
We have done nothing to be alienated…we just don’t fit into the same social circle. Based on these criteria I am okay with being an outsider. Whatever happened to the “cup of sugar” neighbor? I have to go 3 houses down to find this type of neighbor. “How far do you have to go?”. I just don’t understand the type of person who cannot be kind in passing. A wave or kind word just bounce right off of them as they turn and ignore our very presence. It must be all the bobbed-wire and signage, in the yard, that keep them at this distance. Maybe the invisibility cloak is working again! “That’s it…they just can’t see or hear us!” With friends like these… Well you know the old saying! Community is important but, perhaps the definition has been changed.
The concept of a strong community is no longer the area directly surrounding you…it has been expanded to include the part of our life that is not set at the house. We have to drive everywhere due to the location of work and activities we frequent. The small town feeling is a thing of the past! Many people work in different cities and spend long periods of time commuting. We have, out of necessity and growth, expanded the concept of community. I have a strong church community…we socialize outside church gatherings and talk daily. We see each other out shopping and spend way to much time together before completing our shopping. Today’s lifestyle does not cater to the old standard of enjoying coffee with a neighbor. It is the norm to go to the local brew haven to meet and have coffee. The front porch and kitchen table conversations are becoming a thing of the past…at least in this neighborhood. “How sad!”.
I had a wonderful friend, who lived across the street and up two houses, I shared coffee with these friends on a daily basis. Everyday after work…in her kitchen…unwind…good times! “They moved!” To a different country! We often reminisce and long for our little chats over coffee. We have not seen them in almost four years. Lifestyles keep us busy…the distance we have to travel, to and from, keeps us from home. When we do get home we choose to stay home. “Do you close out the world when you get home?”
Well it is almost time for my phone call “coffee break”! Try to be a good neighbor! Speak a kind word and wave as you go about your day! You never know….they may be asking the same question you are!
“Won’t you be my neighbor?”