Stranger Next Door

When you were a child, you could walk down your parents’ street and call the surname of the families or people who lived in every house on the block or on your floor of the apartment building. Can you do that on your street now? Time to MAD in our very own backyards. Can you Make A Difference?

Not many of us remember who C.G. Johnson was or what he invented in 1926, but he changed our attitudes toward neighbors.

No? This is an old one.

You could drive up to your garage, and with the press of a button, park your faithful

Brand New 1926 Tin Lizzy Touring Coupe

inside the garage without having to haul on the chains to move the door. If you have one now, you do not need to get out of your car for all this privacy, and it probably looks more like this:

Lights up, so you never have to step out in the dark of the garage again.

and comes with a remote control.

In times gone by, you would have stood in your driveway and waved and spoken to the neighbors who were out washing their very own Tin Lizzy. Mr. Johnson made it possible for you to come home and close the door behind you without interacting with anyone. Do you do this today?


Over the decades, our hobbies and pastimes change. How about a few facts to support this?

The average person spends only 15 minutes per day doing yard work, gardening or tending to outside chores. That same person spends three hours watching television and surfing the Internet.

In the 1970s (and some of you remember this), families and individuals had friends over to dinner twice as often as they do today. Do you even know how to play Bridge or Bourée?

Look out your window. Is there a veranda or gazebo in your yard? Are there chairs on your front porch or do you only have a stoop? Is there a fence around your backyard? Is it a privacy fence? Hmm.


May as well have a moat, too.

We see picket fences in quaint tourist spots, but not in yards any longer. Instead, we have six- to eight-foot privacy fences which block out the view in or out of our yards. We cannot even see passing neighbors to invite them for a lemonade, a brat off the grill or a dip in the pool.

So, you opted for the less expensive version with chain link. Makes your yard a prison, does it not? You may still be able to see your neighbors, but the barrier between you speaks Do Not Disturb at a volume which violates the noise ordinance.

Traditional hedgerows require maintenance. Is that why you opted for the man-made version over something green, blooming and alive?

Drive Bys

Southern Americans still wave when they pass other cars on the road, especially those of neighbors. Nearly everyone will wave out the window when they see a neighbor in the yard. Have you ever turned to your passenger (or Mate standing in the yard with you) and asked, Who is that?

Another 21 minutes...

Commutes are longer than ever before. Everyone has moved to the suburbs. How ironic is it part of the charm of the burbs is the neighborly atmosphere?

Dual-income families feature Mates who are away from home more than 18 hours (combined) per day. When they are home, they are inside or behind the cover of privacy and security. But are they?

More than half of house fires and attempted burglaries are reported by neighbors, not homeowners. Do you want them looking out for your home? Would you call if their home was in danger?

Make A Difference

1. Meet your neighbors. Take something from your garden (produce or flowers) or something you baked (Cookies and breads are good.). Knock on the door and introduce yourself.

2. Invite neighbors over for a drink or snack. You do not have to have a dinner party. Lawn chairs and lemonade are fine. Coffee and crumpets. Tea and biscuits. Budget around an hour for chit-chat.

3. Make yourself available. Offer to help. You can help…

  • Bring in purchases.
  • Put together projects.
  • Cart in the refuse cans.

4. Go outside. Mow your front lawn. Wash your car. Walk the dog. Play with your children. Draw with sidewalk chalk. Tend your landscaping. Plant a tree.

When you see your neighbors doing the same thing…say hello! See them doing something you would like to try? Go ask about it.

5. Plan a party. Have a traditional block party. Potluck tables of food and games for the children (and adults) with a great combination of music from the last few decades. Have a fashion show…for the men. Why not have a masquerade?

Have a MAD party. How many of the MAD projects asked for you to recruit friends and neighbors? Party for a cause.

6. Plan a sale. One of the joys of garage saling is learning the story behind your treasure. What a great way to learn your neighbor’s history!

7. Write a newsletter. Collecting and reporting the news is a great excuse for visiting your neighbors regularly to discover what is happening in their lives.

  • Welcome new neighbors (those who move in and those born to neighbors).
  • Post memorials.
  • Celebrate holidays.
  • Erase cultural divides.
  • Announce needs.
  • Advertise pet adoption, so families of animals can stay close.

8. Adopt a shut-in. Loneliness is a way of life for most shut-ins, whether they are at home because of health, age or finances. Spare an hour to sit down with a homebound person. Bring flowers. Bring something new for you to try. A new fruit or new flavor of coffee. Play a game. Loan out the latest book you read.

9. Have a ball. Organize a game of football, softball or volleyball. Play street hockey. Throw a Frisbee. Okay, so that is not a ball, but you get the idea.

10. Plant a hedge. Share the trimming duties with a neighbor. Beautify the block while making a friend.

You DO Make A Difference.

You Do MAD

Invest a little of yourself. Being a good neighbor is the easiest way to having good neighbors. Make a new Quaint and be neighborly. You never know how much you may have in common until you introduce yourself and take a few minutes to listen. It makes your neighborhood a safer place to live.


How many of your neighbors do you know? When was the last time a new neighbor moved into your neighborhood? Do you know their names? Have you ever had a party with your neighbors?

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. I have to say……we are good on the neighbor thing. We know their names, we have social interactions and we don’t make each other feel creepy. At least, I don’t think so.
    It makes you wonder though…..did fences create fear of the unknown and suspect people or the other way around?
    Lorre recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: If you mean “my” words.My Profile


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