“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? Say, who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day.” Songwriters MOSS for Sesame Street
I will take you back to a time not very long ago, just 25 years, when I would bet you knew everyone in your neighborhood. I would say even 15 years ago. Maybe upon pondering, it is a very long time ago. Perhaps the New Year brings with it past reflections along with hopes and dreams for the future. Mourning for times lost, joyous for new unexpected ventures. Aware of where we stand in the present, this moment, this time.
Our neighborhood, consisting of half of a complete whole of an entire street, was fairly established by the time we moved in right smack in the middle of a January cold winter. I recall with shivers running up and down my spine the trek my younger brother, brother in law and husband made, driving the u haul truck loaded with our meek treasures half way across the country, with no heat. Arriving at our new home somewhat icy and grey looking, with smiles and laughter and tense nervousness that they actually made it alive without freezing along the journey. Shortly into the unloading, unpacking and eating, our new neighbors began to arrive, arms full of food and welcoming. Sharing stories of our neighbors and neighborhood, we felt immediately welcomed as if we had lived here all our lives. These neighbors remain like family today. Some have left their physical bodies, children grown have moved on to other parts of the world, our neighborhood circle becomes smaller with each passing year. But, the ones that remain are like treasures in the sand, diamonds that sparkle in the sun, weathered and steadfast, knowing and kind. We all know of our sorrows, struggles, our joy, our milestones, because as a neighborhood we became a community.
I recall a time when our neighbor was repairing his old garage. Our son has it in his nature to help others, evident from a very young age. So, it was no surprise when he spent most of his waking hours after school and on the weekend helping out to repair the garage. About a month after completion, my husband also found something around the house in need of repair and went in search of various nails he kept stored in a shed. Alas, there was not one nail to be found. Perplexed at where all the nails had gone, his agitation becoming obvious and loud, our son piped up, “Well Dad, I gave them all to our neighbor to fix his garage.” When asked why, his reply was swift and innocent. “They are poor and cannot afford nails so, I gave them ours.” How can you argue with that, neighbors helping neighbors, the garage stands strong today.
As I reflect on our neighborhood this January, I see a community of neighbors with unknown names and faces, a vacant street void of the sounds of children playing, laughing, yelling or crying. There are no hockey games being played out on the snowy streets where street lights illuminate hockey nets and sticks and cheers of glee out of the mouths of babes. No front house lights flickering to let children know its time to come inside and ready themselves for bath and bed. Sleds once filled with children wrapped snuggly in blankets tucked away in snowsuits are but a memory replaced by what, I am not sure. What does it mean to not know your neighbors, your community, your world. The people in your neighborhood. And in this new landscape of invisible neighborhoods what does it mean when you are not known by others. To know and to be known is something special, human, inclusive, accepted. Loving occurs on so many levels, even with neighbors. Though you rarely meet each day or perhaps meet at all, the definition of todays neighborhood is dynamic, fluctuating, even mutating like the genes of our DNA. Neighborhoods of the future! George Jetson here we come. I wonder how my robot will fare as a neighbor?