Wednesday, June 19, 2013

good neighbors




i am originally a california girl. i grew up in the land where good fences make good neighbors. we knew our neighbors, at least those directly to our left and right. we could possibly borrow a cup of sugar or an egg on occasion (as long as it wasn't too often), but that pretty much summed up our neighborly social interactions. there was no front porch sitting. walks around the neighborhood could be done without acknowledging those you were passing. people pretty much stayed to themselves.

now i live in the south. to say things are different here is an understatement. neighborhoods are named. when people ask where we live, we give them the title of our neighborhood. the neighborhood becomes a part of our identity. neighbors know each other and each other's business. walking in the neighborhood is not a means of exercise. walks are social outings. fences are optional. kids play in front yards...lots and lots of kids. we know what cars each neighbor drives, how many kids they have and which floor model they live in. while all of this has taken some getting used to, i have officially decided that i live in the best neighborhood in the world. period. 

you man think i am exaggerating but i have proof to back up my statement. when i gave birth to my fourth and fifth born sons, my neighbors (they even beat out my church for this one) brought me meals for three weeks. that means meals for six. incredible. when my in-laws were in town, one neighbor brought over cookies, just so she could brag about me to my mother-in-law (my friend is a gem!). when another mother couldn't locate her son, masses of neighbors were out looking (he was eventually found...in a neighbor's house). when someone new arrives, they get visits...and sometimes treats. my kids don't lack for play dates, pool time or sleepovers. i know there are watchful eyes watching my kiddos wherever they go. if something is out of place, someone will let me know. if there is a suspicious car in the neighborhood, someone will chase it out (seriously...one mom followed a van for a good 30 minutes to make sure it was legit.) if there is a traffic jam, someone will post it on facebook (yep...neighborhood facebook page too). there are mothers who will help me at the drop of a hat. when one of our neighbors was diagnosed with cancer, dozens of neighborhood ladies stepped up to bring her a gift a week to show their support. literally...dozens of neighbors. when our lovely neighbor passed away from cancer, the neighborhood tied balloons on every mailbox so that as her sweet husband and daughter left for the funeral that day, they knew there was an entire neighborhood supporting them. 

we have bunco and book club, poker nights and ball games. we have meal trains and canned food drives. we adopt families at christmas time. we, in the most wonderful sense, do life together. we are not just neighbors, we are friends. we are not just friends, we are family. there is something so profound in that concept and i think it is worth sharing. it all goes back to the fact that we were not meant to be isolated. no one was ever meant to be an island. we are supposed to be there for one another. we are supposed to operate in community. somewhere along the line our ideas of independence and self-reliance have gotten in the way of how things were meant to be. there is something so wonderful about knowing that we are surrounded by people who support us, look out for us, and are there if we need them. it makes us feel settled and we couldn't be more thankful. 

so what if you do not live in a neighborhood like ours? that's simple: start one. be the catalyst for change in your own little portion of the world. bring cookies or fresh bread (you can do it!) to a new or new-to-you neighbor. introduce yourself to people you don't know. invite people over for coffee. offer to watch someone's kids so they can run an errand in peace (say "yes" if someone offers this!). do all those little things that you wish someone would do for you. create the kind of neighborhood you want for your children. people are craving interaction...not just on the computer or on the phone but face to face. people need hugs and plates of cookies and coffee and commiseration. so many of us are surrounded by people and completely alone. we don't have to be. give it a try. what do you have to lose but your isolation?