A funny thing happened when we held our garage sale over the Fourth of July holiday. I saw, and spoke to, more of my neighbors over two days than I sometimes do in months. I watched, with great interest, as one neighbor collaborated with another to pull huge bush stumps out of the ground in front of his house using rope and a truck. Over the course of this project, there were 2 trucks involved, rope, shovels, and about half the neighborhood and my garage sale browsers watching anxiously as the guy driving the truck spun his wheels trying to yank this monstrous bush out. Eventually, they were successful.
Another neighbor down the road came back a couple times to buy lamps, telephones, shoes, and other items for her sister who was moving into a new apartment around the corner.
Later in the day, a neighbor we rarely talked to came over from across the street to let us know he and his family were going out of town for a week and asked us to keep an eye on his house. It turns out his next door neighbor has caused some problems for them in the past.
When I was growing up, I generally knew the last names at least of the neighbors on our block, including those who lived on the cul-de-sac nearby. There was even an annual neighborhood clam bake that was held out at Hamlin Beach State Park every September.
Now I'm lucky if I even recognize the people who drive up and down the road next to our house as neighbors. I may know a first name of a couple, but in most cases I don't know my neighbors. Some of this is due to the fact that the house next door and directly across the street are rental properties. People don't generally hang around in the same location for long in this city. The other issue is that the main tool to getting to know our neighbors is enclosed. It's hard to call out a hello to people walking by when they can't hear you through the glass of your enclosed porch.
I see the value in knowing who your neighbors are. Sometimes I don't mind the anonymity though. It's the introvert in me that doesn't feel comfortable going over and introducing myself to people I've lived next to for three years but still don't know what they look like. At the same time, I think I'm missing out on that feeling of being in a community where you have someone you can turn to in times of need, like being able to borrow a snow blower when yours suddenly dies as Lake Effect snow dumps on your driveway. And sometimes I think, "Well, maybe I'll just make more of an effort to say hello to people when I see them outside." I suppose that would require me to spend some more time outside, wouldn't it?
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