Posted in Home, Life, neighbors

Words for Wednesday: like a good neighbor

To have a good neighbor, you must be a good neighbor.

That’s not necessarily a quote from some famous person but something I’ve always thought myself. It kind of follows the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” rule – the Golden Rule.

That concept comes from Jesus’ words in the Biblical books of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. I not only learned the Golden Rule in Sunday School lessons, but my parents taught it to me when I was a young child.

Having lived in different neighborhoods in different states during my life thus far, I found myself blessed with some truly good neighbors.

“Definition of good neighbor: someone to be trusted; a courteous, friendly source of help when help is needed; someone you can count on; someone who cares.” ~ Edward B. Rust, Jr.

As a very young child, one of my neighbors was the same age and became my playmate. We not only went to school together but church too. And not surprisingly, she became one of my best friends for life.

We were only neighbors over 50 years ago, but just a couple of years ago, she and her husband moved closer to where I live. So once again, we are neighbors although we live a little more than 1/2 mile apart. My neighbor/friend is someone I can totally trust, someone who genuinely cares about me, and someone I can confide in and count on to lend a helping hand.

When I was growing up, our next door neighbors’ daughter also became one of my life-long best friends, even though we lived many miles apart after becoming adults. She has always fit that good neighbor definition too. We have traded confidences more times than I can remember and I’m confident she is always there with a listening ear and caring heart. I know she has my back.

As a young, single college grad embarking on a career, I accepted a position in a small town where I knew absolutely no one. During my time living there, I had an exceptional neighbor who also was my landlady. Her husband worked night shifts and we became fast friends, spending evenings talking or just watching TV and sometimes eating dinners together. She was a godsend to me at a lonely time in my life.

Fast forward a few years, as a married military wife, I once again was blessed with a great next-door neighbor when we lived in Army post officer’s quarters. Both of us were first-time mothers and we shared experiences, fears, and joys with each other. What a blessing it was to have such a good friend just steps away right next door.

“A good neighbor is a very desirable thing.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Once Papa and I left military life, he changed careers and we landed in a Midwestern city far from our families in our home state. There we purchased our first house and again, didn’t know one person who lived in the area. But one day, a neighbor arrived at my door with her young daughters in tow to welcome me to the neighborhood.

Once more God intervened and provided a wonderful neighbor for me just two doors away with assurance I could count on her anytime for help. Our children became playmates and good friends, and this helpful neighbor watched our oldest daughter while I labored bringing our next child into this world at a nearby hospital.

Neither Papa nor I worried about leaving our little one with our neighbor because we trusted her completely and knew our daughter was in good hands. Just like the advertisement jingles for insurance companies– like a good neighbor, she was there. And we still keep in touch with one another after many years (and moves for us) have passed by.

Likewise, when our family moved to another part of the country to a brand new home in a brand new subdivision, great neighbors became part of the deal. We enjoyed social gatherings, our children played together, and sometimes we even celebrated holidays with each other since our native families lived far away. It was a truly amazing neighborhood with fine folks.

I wonder if people are neighborly like that any longer. Now it seems everyone just goes about their own way, not even acknowledging their neighbors let alone helping them. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that and if you have or are a good neighbor, please let me know and restore my faith in neighborly kindness.

God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” ~ Martin Luther

What prompted me to write about good neighbors is an incident that happened just last week. Papa and I live in a rural area on a two-acre plot of land. When we moved into our newly built home 22 years ago, no friendly neighbors greeted us. Life here proved different than it was when we lived in villages, towns, suburbs, or on a military post.

We do have neighbors in the vicinity, but we not only don’t know them (or even their names) but some of them we’ve never actually seen. They come and go in their vehicles and mind their own business, not being neighborly at all.

It’s not that they are bad neighbors, they just aren’t friendly either. When I once attempted a nice favor for one of them, I was rebuffed at the front door. Still others, we’ve waved to and have been ignored.

Except for one. Not too long after we moved into our home, a single man moved into the house closest to ours. Oh boy, we imagined that there might be a lot of noise, people coming and going, parties, etc. Not so.

Our neighbor Joe (not his real name) has been a quiet and good neighbor. He became a single dad, raising his young teen daughter, and he never caused any kind of disturbance or issue. Instead, he always chats with Papa when they are both outside mowing or working in the yard. He watches our home when we’re away and we watch his for the same reason.

Joe’s been helpful on more than one occasion, loaning us his rototiller for our garden or helping Papa repair something awry, lugging a huge Barbie house and assorted accoutrements that his daughter outgrew over to give to our granddaughter.  

He has been and continues to be a good neighbor. Just last week, he really fit the bill. Papa was down and out for several weeks with a respiratory illness, not feeling well enough to attach the snowplow to our trusty John Deere lawn and garden tractor.

And then it snowed and snowed and snowed, finally stopping after around eight inches of accumulation.

Papa bundled up and shoveled our sidewalk and then, since he couldn’t plow the driveway out, he pulled out the snow blower, which doesn’t really work that well in deep snow and on a long, gravel driveway.

Suddenly, there came Joe on his four-wheeler with a plow attached to the front of it. He cleared out our entire driveway and turn-around area. Neighbor helping neighbor. Lending a hand. Being there just when he’s needed.

We couldn’t thank him enough for his kindness and thoughtfulness. His response? “No problem!”

Joe is the kind of neighbor we’re grateful to have. And we try our best to reciprocate neighborly friendliness and helpfulness to him. In order to show our appreciation for him, he’ll be getting extra goodies from our garden this coming summer for sure.

Good neighbors. They are a blessing. And we all can be that blessing to others. I only hope that I have been just as good of a neighbor to all the people I’ve written about here as they were to me.

“Good exercise for the heart: reach out and help your neighbor.” ~ Mark Twain


Posted in Life, neighbors

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