photo by Linda Aslund
In For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life(one of my all-time favorite books), Susan Shaeffer Macaulay writes with fondness about her childhood in what is today inner city, St. Louis. She shares about riding her tricycle up and down the sidewalks, warned not to ignore strangers but rather to be courteous to adults and turn to them if in need of help. She and her neighborhood friends had freedom to go in and out of each other’s houses, playing while their mothers hung out wash on the line. Yet, no matter where in the neighborhood their play took them, they were always “under the caring eye of some grownup in the neighborhood.”
Granted, she’s writing about the 1940’s, and yes, things were different back then. Still, I cannot help but wish to emulate that kind of neighborhood in today’s era. Yet today, instead of knowing our neighbors , many people keep completely to themselves. With such a strong sense of individualism, one cannot possibly feel comfortable trusting neighbors enough to know they’ll be keeping a close eye on one’s children if they ride trikes or bikes on the sidewalk in front of their house. Of course the primary responsibility for watching one’s children rests with the parents, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a neighborhood where one had the assurance that all the neighbors truly looked out for each other?
We live in a neighborhood that has been deemed by our city as a “Weed and Seed” area—weed out the bad and seed in the good. Many people, not just in my neighborhood but throughout the country, are becoming intentional about neighborhood renewals—not just accepting the way things are but actively working for redemption. Along with some other neighbors, we just started a neighborhood watch program with our local police department, and I like how it has already brought neighbors—not just immediate neighbors—closer together. I feel hopeful that a day is coming when my children will be able to ride their bikes and trikes down the sidewalk, and I will feel confident knowing they are being watched—not just by me but by neighbors who have become friends as well.
Do you know your neighbors? If so, how did you build that relationship? If not, what are some ways you could build a relationship? Here are a few of my ideas:
- Say hi and be friendly when you see them outside, getting mail, doing yardwork, etc. This is often the first step, and perhaps one of the biggest. We can keep to ourselves, and ignore them, or we can bridge the gap by taking a little extra effort to be friendly.
- Bake cookies and take them to them at Christmastime, and at other times too.
- Invite neighbors over for a BBQ (summer grilling time is almost here!)