In the neighborhood

blogimg_9115It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Not in my neighborhood though. Instead, we visited a fictional one represented by a traveling exhibit at our city’s Children’s Museum.  Earlier this month,  we spent a day taking our Little One to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: A Grr-ific Exhibit before it moved on to the next city.

Little One is enthralled with Daniel Tiger. If you’re not familiar with him, he is an animated character on his own television show on PBS. Both Daniel and his friends are based on the characters created by the late Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood fame.

By far, the “grr-ific” (one of Daniel Tiger’s favorite expressions) exhibit captured Little One’s attention according to the smiles and busy activity she demonstrated there although she did enjoy other areas of the museum too, especially the water floor, where she got to play all she wanted with running water in various ways.

Thinking of neighborhoods, wouldn’t it be nice if all neighborhoods were ones of good will, kindness, and sensible values like the ones in Daniel Tiger’s? But that’s not real life, is it?

Singing that iconic Mr. Rogers’ song lyric ‘won’t you be my neighbor?’ at our house led me to think about neighbors, particularly about next-door neighbors.

I recently heard about an app you can download entitled Nextdoor, that calls itself “the private social network for your neighborhood.”

The website I referenced said this: “Nextdoor is the best way to stay in the know about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, learning about an upcoming block party, or hearing about a rash of car break-ins. There are so many ways our neighbors can help us, we just need an easier way to connect with them.”

Really? So we have to depend on an app to communicate with our neighbors? What ever happened to just leaving your house (and preferably your cell phone also) and walking across the street to actually talk face to face with a neighbor?

Over the years, our family has been pretty blessed with good next-door neighbors for the most part. When I was a kid, we knew all of our neighbors and their children were my best friends.  Neighbors talked to one another back then in person, face to face.

When Papa and I were a young married couple living in an apartment complex, we didn’t really know any of our neighbors because people moved in and out regularly as we lived in fairly transient town outside an Army post.

But later while residing in quarters on that same base, we had great next door neighbors who became very good friends. Even though our ways parted over 30 years ago and we live in different states, we still keep in touch. But back then we talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

After leaving military life and purchasing our first home in a suburb of Kansas City, we had wonderful neighbors. We looked out for each other, watched each other’s homes, and again became good friends. 

Since Papa and I lived several hundred miles from our closest family at the time and we were expecting our second child, one of our neighbors took care of our oldest while I was in labor and giving birth at the hospital. We exchanged child care often and to this day, she is a dear friend even though we live in completely different areas of the country. But back then, we talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

When we moved into a new housing neighborhood, our neighbors welcomed us and we became a part of a community group that enjoyed socializing together – having progressive dinners and parties often. We talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

Then Papa’s job promotion took us to the Pacific Northwest where once again we moved into a new developing neighborhood. Neighbors there were friendly, our children all played together, and the entire subdivision would celebrate Independence Day with a huge block party. We talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

Neighbors doing the neighborly thing. We helped one another, we looked out for each other and our children, often we celebrated holidays together, and we sat out on the front porch stoop enjoying lots of conversations.

It was life in the suburbs but the best aspect of it was having good neighbors who were blessings.And even if, as neighbors, we didn’t become the best of friends, we still knew each other and treated each other with kindness and concern. They were folks you could talk to, face to face.

Papa and I have lived in our home here for 17 years.  Right here on this 2.25 acre farmer’s field where we built our house. Rural land. Out in the country. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of a city and even from the ‘burbs.

But we still have neighbors within walking distance.  And you would think that living in the country, neighbors would be…well…downright neighborly. Not so.

The other homes near us are all occupied yet I rarely see any of the people who live in them. I wouldn’t recognize any of them, except for one young couple who we knew before they moved into our neighborhood, if my path crossed theirs at Wal-Mart or the grocery store or even taking a walk down our country road.

We do have one fellow – our next door neighbor guy – who we know by name.  He’s a nice person who ventures across the tall grass right-a-way between our homes to chew the fat with Papa often – face to face.  He’s even helped my hubby fix our lawn tractor. We keep tabs on each other’s homes and have shared our gardens’ bounty with each other.

One neighborly neighbor.

I fear this is not unusual in this day and age no matter where you live.  Is it because people just don’t want to be neighborly or friendly let alone hospitable or helpful?  I don’t know. I experienced that unfriendliness here one day when I tried to be helpful to a neighbor and was treated with extreme coldness, practically having a door slammed in my face.

And that brings me sadness because the people in my neighborhood aren’t anything like Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood. Maybe that’s why children gravitate to this TV show.  It exudes kindness, consideration, and genuine caring for the people who live in your neighborhood.

Perhaps we all need to tune into a PBS television station and take a lesson from Daniel Tiger.

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” ~Hubert H. Humphrey

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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9 responses

  1. We moved into our new home one year ago. I had to be the one to introduce myself to the neighbors. Otherwise I still would not know them. A far cry from watching my Papaw talk across the fence to all neighbors on everyside.

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  2. Sadly, we aren’t all that friendly with our neighbors either. I think it’s that, as a rule, husbands and wives both work now, and when they get home, they just want to relax at home. “In the old days” , before air conditioning, everyone sat out on their porches for the cool air.
    But the part that I smiled at most in your post was the mention that part of the exhibit was allowing little ones to play in running water. One of Marshall’s favorite things to do when he was a toddler was to pull a chair up to the kitchen sink and play with water and the “Pollymolive”. 🙂

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  3. In the neighborhood where we live now, and have lived for over 30 years, the level “in person” interaction between those that live closest to us actually seems to be better now than it was when we first moved here. I know that is probably not the norm, but perhaps it is the fact that most of us are relatively older folks over 50, are at home more than before, and appreciate being neighborly. Our neighborhood has always had folks that have stayed for years at a time, with the exception of one house right across the street from us. Fortunately, that house was purchased by a great couple our age and has been totally renovated. Anyway, I think that is an interesting observation, perhaps a little deviation from what is largely happening elsewhere? I don’t know, though. I know most of our friends that live here enjoy their neighbors, too? Maybe some regional differences? Interesting topic. For us, Nextdoor is just a good way to hear about crime and missing pets in our larger neighborhood. No one is particularly social like other venues online, and for that purpose, it is pretty helpful. Again, maybe a regional thing? Enjoyed your thought-provoking post today! 😀

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    • I do think some neighborhoods are just friendlier than others. I don’t mean the ‘let’s drink coffee every morning at your/my house’ kind of thing, but just the wave hello or verbal greeting and at least knowing each other’s names. That’s what I miss in our neck of the woods and we’ve been here 17 years.

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  4. When we were kids, we knew all the neighbours and they knew (and ‘watched out for’) us. However, in the three city neighbourhoods where I lived as a married adult, I knew only one or two sets of neighbours, never more (and we weren’t particularly ‘friendly’ with them – we’d call hello or chat over the fence once in a while, but we didn’t socialize or share interests, etc.) Since moving to the country, we’ve spoken several times to our next door neighbours (and could probably call on them in an emergency) and the fellow across the street came by one day to introduce himself (and his wife waves from her car if I’m out at the mailbox when she passes me by) but I don’t anticipate being more than ‘hello, how are you?’ friendly with them, despite the remoteness of the area and the fact that we’re ‘new in town’. Even in my son and daughter-in-law’s urban neighbourhood (homes close together, lots of couples with children), they barely know anyone and no one ‘socializes’ (at least in the neighbourhood where I lived when my boys were small, the families generally congregated in the local playground after supper and the adults would chat while the kids played; you don’t even SEE families at playgrounds anymore!) People just seem so ‘closed off’ these days – as if they’re afraid of making any kind of personal contact with other human beings. Its a very sad state of affairs. I think I’d like to live in Daniel Tiger’s (or Mr. Rogers’) neighbourhood better!

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    • Yes, Margo, that ‘closed off’ thing is what I lament about. We didn’t know (or socialize) with all of our neighbors over the years either, but at least there was a friendly wave or hello greeting. And you are right, walk or drive by playgrounds and you don’t see anyone there. We rarely even see our neighbors outside except to mow their lawns. And I totally agree that even in our state of so-called connectivity with technology, we are more disconnected on a personal level than ever, and that makes me sad.

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