Who are my neighbors?
What ever happened to the good old days when a new neighbor was brought a batch of cookies upon their arrival to the neighborhood? When did we stop visiting the new neighbor to welcome them to the subdivision?
I wonder what happened to us. Have we become so paranoid and suspicious that we don’t even trust someone enough to say “Hi” or “Welcome to the subdivision”?
When I was a young mother of two small daughters, I hadn’t realized that it had become passé to do such things. When the couple moved in across the street from us, my children and I baked two-dozen chocolate-chip cookies for our new neighbors. We did it with excitement and anticipation. “Did the couple have children?” we wondered, “Will they become our friends?”
We placed the cookies on a cheap (but nice) plastic platter and covered them with foil. Together we walked across the street and knocked on the door. My daughters were very excited and eager to meet the new folks and find out if they had new children to play with.
The door opened, but just a crack. It appeared to be a woman, but we couldn’t be sure at first. I hesitated, but not much, and said, “Hi! My name is Lauri and these are my daughters, Jamie and Jana. We just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood with this batch of chocolate-chip cookies we baked.”
The woman opened the door enough to take the cookies, said “Thanks” (with almost no expression in her voice except possibly irritation) and then she closed the door. That was it.
We stood there for a moment and looked at each other. Then I burst out laughing. As we walked back to the house my daughters asked why I was laughing. They thought it was rude of her to do that. I told them that it was just so unexpected, I had to laugh. The fact that she practically slammed the door in our face made it even more shocking. They agreed, and then asked why I thought she did that to us. I remember making up excuses for the lady by telling my children that she must have been ill and didn’t want to infect us, but added that she should have used her manners and told us that.
They agreed that it wasn’t very mannerly of her, and I told them I was glad they knew better. I asked them what they’d do if anyone ever brought them cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood. One daughter said she would open the door as wide as it would go and ask them to come in. The other said she would be their best friend forever. (Chocolate-chip cookies were her favorite!)
You might be thinking that the incident would deter me from being courteous to my neighbors. Well, I must admit, I haven’t baked anymore cookies. But I have never stopped trying to be “neighborly” to my neighbors. I still try to make it a point to say “Hi, welcome to the neighborhood” when I see the moving van at a previously empty house, and I always wave and make small talk when I can.
I have been rewarded in many ways. Once we had some visitors on our second day in our new home. That couple and their children are our friends to this day, even though they moved from the subdivision years before we did.
Having friends in our neighbors helped in another way. During Hurricane Gustav in 2008, it made for some good times by candlelight (or generator produced light). One couple in our subdivision provided food for many of us since the man of the house is a caterer. We played board games, ate dinner together, and complained about the traffic (and other problems living without power for an extended period causes).
We still have "game night" periodically with our neighbors, and we consider them some of our best friends.
You just never know when or how you might need one of those neighbors you feel too shy or too paranoid to acknowledge in your day-to-day life. What would it hurt to step outside when you see a neighbor in his yard? Tell him something about the weather changes, the postal service, or his new car. There are endless topics of conversation that could be used to break the ice.
I only know that we need each other in more ways than we realize. If we try, I believe, a little at a time, it could return to some semblance of the “old days.”