Stranger Next Door

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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?

Pastimes

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.

Blockades

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.

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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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44 Comments

  1. Red, these are wonderful ideas and poignant nostalgia and genuine humanity you’re advocating for– a return to the 50’s –I’m not sure that society hasn’t already permanently changed too far to ever return to that kind of inter-personal neighbourhood. It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
    Civilizations rise and fall on the failure of society to be a cohesive unit –North American culture is drifting apart ever faster, one garage-door closer at a time. That certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! ~R
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Mother Nature is BOSSMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      The things we miss the most are the ones we got to busy to continue. If given the choice between dinner with PEOPLE and more screen time, for me, it is a no-brainer. Recently, a man was discovered in his home. It appeared he had been dead for at least three weeks. Every neighbor said the same thing…He just quit coming outside. How ignoble is it to die alone and then no one check on you?

      My neighbors or postal carrier (especially when the box fills) tele or knock on the door if they do not see me at least every other day.

      Reply
  2. Oh man…
    I’m REALLY bad about this because (believe it or not) I’m INCREDIBLY introverted… I’m usually doing my best to hide.
    On a side-note I never would have guessed the garage door opener has been around for as long as it has! Interesting!
    🙂
    spilledinkguy recently posted..ChrysanthemumMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      <<< Boundless fount of excruciating minutia. I have no problem believing that in the slightest, SIG. Those tendencies stuck out...even through the screen. Take Annabelle. She can make friends with anyone. Just one will not hurt.

      Reply
  3. Red, loved this post, and yes I remember well when we could name everyone in my Village where I used to live.. All of them.. When I moved in my present home over 27 yrs ago now.. We could also name everyone.. as our children were growing and played with other children neighbours blended and communicated..
    Now as house sales and new young couples move in along our Avenue And always being at work alot myself.. I only know many by sight, but always put my hand up to greet them.
    My Near Neighbours I talk to.. Bring in their dustbin off their drives on Bin day etc and they do like wise for me..
    Chats over fences too have stopped as yes those high fences go up!..
    We do belong to a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme which is co-ordinated by the Police. So we do keep our eyes out for each other as one or two along our Avenue have been Burgled in the past.
    This Queens Jubilee Day should be interesting as many street parties are bring organised, None unfortunately upon our street.
    But I did get an invite to one some 30 miles away where I go and do my Spiritual Demo’s as a thank you. So Im off there Sunday Afternoon.. to join in the street party Fun..
    A very good Post Red.. and Im Back.. Hugs ~Sue xx
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..Finding Myself ~ I AM~My Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      Neighborhood watch is an excellent way to put this post into action. What a perfect excuse to knock on the door and introduce yourself. Being a good neighbor is as simple as being as friendly as you wish others were to you. Shame you have to travel so far. I would think your neighbors would enjoy your talents.

      Glad you are back, Sue. {HUGZ} Red. xxx

      Reply
  4. Laurie

     /  May 31, 2012

    Twelve years later I know three of the neighbors. I like it that way. One side I have a view all the way to the neighbors barn and house across the field, the other side my fence with the honeysuckle growing on it and their hedges give the illusion of privacy while you can see directly into the horses pen. You can not see the house from the road for the trees. It makes for a semi quiet life, since privacy is only an illusion you still hear the neighbors making far too much noise when you want quiet and the arguments they have on what used to be their previous neighbors land. I did notice that men out here are a lot louder than the women who like me seem to have found the silence to be the main attraction since it’s a short drive into town to hear a bunch of noise.

    Yes, you I did know the names of most of the people on the street where I grew up and people did stop by to talk when someone was outside doing yard work., some of them unlike people today would actually do a little manual labor themselves.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      My OCD lets me attach their names to their house numbers. Sadder still, I can call their pets by name as well. My land is clear with the exception of the few little trees I have planted in the last few years. All fledgling, nothing mature. Same with one neighbor’s yard, although theirs has less mature trees than mine. The other has a few mature ones, but none of us have fences. You have to get to the horse pens down the road (this property faces on two roads-front and back) to find fence.

      Since I live across the street from a game preserve (for the second time in my life), I really like my neighbors on that side 😉

      Reply
  5. It is so sad, the state of neighborhoods. I did many of these things when I moved to mine, but eventually gave up. There is a neighborhood gossip who also enjoys making life miserable for others. She has really enjoyed stirring up trouble for me. Even when I was in labor, she was complaining about what we needed to do *for her*. A real gem, she. And then her best buddies, the ones who are giving my 6 y.o. nightmares. And they tell me I’m bringing down the quality of the neighborhood. As if.

    I love the beautiful picture of a neighborhood community you paint. I am happy for anyone who finds that in this world. I don’t know anyone with that in my neck of the woods. That’s a shame. It requires less effort to be neighborly than to be a beast.
    Leslea recently posted..I love Deam Lake, so here’s a thought: how about instead of someone drowning once a year, we…My Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      The class bully. I live only a few doors down from the street gossip. She tried to make trouble for me as well. As it stands, she stays on her property and off of mine. I happen to like it that way. I think I must have been a flashbulb in a past life. I shine the light on really stinking behavior (especially if it is a lifelong habit), and those around me say those words I hear nearly daily….

      “I never thought of it like that.” (Insert sigh.)

      I have lived in this type of community often…even when I was in NYC. It can be done! I have a secret weapon, though…I make slamming coffee. 😉

      Reply
  6. Interesting that apartment dwellers aren’t mentioned here at all – those of us who have no yards, no driveways, no fences and so on can find meeting other people even harder.

    More than a few people I know have purchased dogs just for the dog-walking routine, and the social interaction it offers.
    shoreacres recently posted..Yoani Sanchez ~ After Five YearsMy Profile

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    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      I did, Linda, but it was only a one-liner about the people on the floor of your apartment building. I have seem really strong communities come from the Xth floor of a walkup or high rise. Their meeting places were most often the mail room, the stairs or the elevator. It all starts with saying hello and introducing yourself.

      Many do the dog-walking routine, but still must drive to the park or some other isolation technique. While I do not call my neighbors to be my best or closest friends, we maintain a neighborly civility where we look out for one another.

      Reply
  7. Hi Red, I have to admit I spend too much time on line. But there are so many good things to read about! But, we moved closer to work to have more “living” time, I also have chairs on my porch that just yesterday were used by my neighbor and I, and the day before? We were on their porch. I know the neighbors in my radius by name. And by site for many many more. It does feel a little bit more like my neighborhood of youth. I hope to keep it that way. I do fear losing it again.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      C, I think bloggers, by nature, spend too much time online. It is a hazard of the title. I am glad to hear you are neighborly! I have been noticing the change in American architecture over the last twenty-five years (hobby of mine). The days of the wrap-around-porch and Acadians and shotgun houses are over in neighborhoods. The houses do not have welcoming entrances. You pop directly into the living room or kitchen with no foyer, no sitting room, no social area. I find it all rather disappointing.

      Keep after it!

      Reply
  8. You speak of strange, old times, Red. I’d be afraid to do what you suggest. All people around here are animals or communists or crazies or whackos. Really. Those electric fences with barbed wire are there for a reason!

    Reply
  9. Oh yes. You hit the nail on the HEAD. Fifty plus years ago (I’m not telling how +), I lived in a wonderful village where everyone knew everyone else and all their business (so what?). At the slightest hint of need, no matter where you were or what you needed, people helped you, and each other, without a second thought—it was a beautiful thing.

    In the past twelve years I’ve been back there a number of times because it was the best time of my life and the living IS still easy there (we moved when I was eleven but the strong impression on my fledgeling self lives on).

    If life in the city hadn’t been a total 360, maybe I wouldn’t feel the pull to go back (to the village). I don’t see much of the neighbours where we live now but I do know the ones on either side. Everyone works. Schedules are different and indeed fences are high. Because I pickup my grandkids at the (school) bus stop, I get to meet and talk with the other parents and grandparents. But that’s about it. People are still people yet no-one wants to make the first move.

    I used to be shy—a wall flower—when I was young. I am not shy anymore. I start the conversation now but because I am WOMAN (sing along with me. . .)

    This post is an excellent starting point for bloggers to recapture their neighbourhood. Way to go, Red!
    Tess Kann recently posted..This is Awkward . . .My Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      The people from the neighborhood where I grew up were so much like that. I have always called Baton Rouge “a great big little town”. The close knit communities watched out for one another and we all socialized with all the other communities we encountered through work or religion or school. I can never admit to being shy. Momma always told me I never met a stranger. I often counter with, “Yes, Momma, but they come no stranger than I.”

      I would love to see the bloggers take back the world. It is so obvious we actually care about things and each other. Red.

      Reply
  10. oh I live in this huge residential complex of highrises and we have RWA meetings,and community affairs but we don’t go out much…
    i do have some friends here however and they are good ones and we are on each others fast call list..we meet and help out each other but thats that.
    plus i am more comfortable with parents association of autistic kids,we understand each other and dont stare kids or suggest stupid medicines
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..A Dinner never LiesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      Amen on the freebie advice!! If I had a dollar for everyone who suggested I try this or that…Ugh. I am glad to hear you have a good community. Linda (Shore Acres) was lamenting I left out the apartment dwellers, but frankly, I see no difference between a privacy fence and a peep hole.

      Ah, but Soma, do not pass the opportunity to educate those around you on the proper etiquette when they meet new people. Those who stare must be retrained. Their parents were obviously lacking. xxx

      Reply

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