I don’t know if this is a common situation or if mine is rather unique, but I don’t know my neighbors very well. I know some well enough that we speak, and might even stop for a brief conversation, but for the most part everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.
I have lived in the same house for about 25 years. At one time, I knew several of the neighbors. But as the years passed, people moved out, others moved in. Some of us met, others didn’t. We smile, we wave; I don’t think I have bad neighbors, we just all seem to hover in our own little circles.
The situation is directly inverse to how neighbors were when I was growing up. In my neighborhood, everybody knew everybody. My parent’s neighbors were their best friends. They got together socially, they ran errands for one another, and for the most part it was like I had a parental annex everywhere I went.
People knew me, they knew my parents, they knew what was allowed and what wasn’t, so just because I might be hiding something from my parents didn’t mean they weren’t going to find out, because eyes were everywhere.
But I also knew I was safe, because those same eyes were on the lookout.
As a youngster, my parents’ willingness to help others incorporated my aid into many people’s lives. A neighbor might need milk from the store, and inquire if my parents happened to be headed out shopping.
If they were not, there was a good chance this phrase would come up: “We can send Dennis to get that for you.” Someone needed help getting something out of their basement: “I think Dennis can get that for you.” Or maybe it was some help in the garden: “Dennis isn’t doing anything, he’ll be glad to help.” My parents’ generosity with my time was boundless.
But a funny thing happened. I got to where I did a lot of those things myself. As my neighborhood aged, there was a greater need for a pair of hands or an extra set of eyeballs. I cut a lot of grass, carried a lot of groceries, watered a lot of gardens and walked a lot of dogs.
I look back and wish I had done more. I am pretty sure that I bailed on some chores which I could have handled. I never really thought much about it, it was just what neighbors did.
In more recent years, I probably missed some chances, but I have tried to lend a hand from time to time. Even more recently, I have found myself on the needing end of a good deed, and I am humbled to say I have some good neighbors who have been there.
For example, this past summer I was cutting the grass. I lost my footing on a wet patch and did a magnificent belly flop into my front yard. Trying to make sure I kept my hands away from the mower blade and would land in such a way that I didn’t break my cellphone, the sight of me, a huge beast tumbling awkwardly downward, must have been something to behold. I took a second to look around and feel to see if I was hurt, and realizing I was OK, started to get up. In the distance I heard the voices of youngsters headed my way. “Are you OK?” Two were headed toward me, one was headed toward their house, I assume to get Mom. I was embarrassed, I was a little stunned, but also I was touched that these kids playing several houses away were looking out for me.
Although I now make it a point to wave to the kids, I had somewhat forgotten the incident until this past weekend. I traditionally use solar power to clean my driveways and sidewalks; I assume it will melt, it always has.
Saturday afternoon, while doing some writing, I heard the sound of shovels scraping somewhere in the area. The funny thing with snow is sound carries, so I had no idea how far away the clearing was happening. But it got louder, so I looked outside and there were my three young friends shoveling my driveway and sidewalk. They didn’t want money, they didn’t ask me if I wanted it done, they just did it. And they did a terrific job, even getting that part at the end of the driveway where the snow plows leave the big stack.
This time I asked them their names. They are Abi, Kaydence and Jonathan. They went out of their way to do something nice and wanted nothing in return. I don’t even really know what to say other than how touched I am, and I just wanted to recognize these nice kids. I need to meet their parents, because they are doing a great job.
Thanks, kids, and I promise when I have a chance to pass-on a good deed, I will do it in your honor.