Monday, July 28, 2008

Could we be better neighbors?

I live on a sleepy, dead-end street. At the end of the street are tracks for the local train, lightly hidden by a scattering of trees; behind my house - a cemetery. Can't ask for quieter neighbors than that. The houses all around us have children under the age of 10, and it's nice to see the kids play out in the street with each other, unaffected by traffic or the pressures of the world. Neighbors say hello and even chat a bit. All told, it's a pleasant place to be.

Still, and an older neighbor pointed this out to us a few weeks ago, there are some neighbors that move in and we have no idea who they are. They don't have block parties like they used to. I don't even know much about the neighbors I do talk to. Most places, people don't even get that much from their neighbors. What do you really know about the people next door to you? I think we've become so isolated in our little worlds. Antisocial? Definitely. I know I don't go out of my way to be involved in their lives, and they do the same. We tend to shut down and focus on our own problems rather than opening up to new people. It's really nothing new. Life isn't a Leave it to Beaver episode...although it did seem different when I was a kid.

I think that's why I smiled when I read Why Mr. Rogers was the Best Neighbor Ever. Who doesn't remember the cardigan-clad man with the slow drawl and zippy sneakers? He seemed so harmless - and he was. I guess we have to be cynical and wary of people; better to not trust than to find that you have a pedophile or murderer as a neighbor. Still, it's nice to imagine, for a minute, that our guards are down and we can trust again.

No comments: