It 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