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 don’t know everyone’s surname, but I know many of my neighbors well enough to say hello. We have some problems in our neighborhood with a house that has gang members selling drugs and we all watch out for each other.

    And it appears that I can post comments again.

    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      WooHoo! So glad you are back…Of all the days you needed to check the CommentLuv button! Gangs are the bane of modern social living. The most common solution to drug houses is the tax assessor. For some reason, paying the taxes on the house gets lost on people who never check the mail.

  2. We have an annual block party on National Night Out, which is put on by the police department. We’ve formed a neighborhood watch (no, we’re not armed) and it seems to have helped. At least, we can all say hello again and talk to each other. Five years ago, I didn’t even know the people two houses down.
    MJ Logan recently posted..Sweet DreamsMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 31, 2012

      Seems a shame we are so cocooned. Some people I know do not even notice when a house is painted another color until someone else points it out…months or years later. Cell phone cameras are a good weapon against illegal activity. When the chances are good they will be caught in the backdrop of a family photo shoot, criminals find their way back into the woodwork.

  3. I’m so glad to see you write about this. Sometime back in March I counted up how many hours I was spending on blogging. Just blogging and commenting. I was shocked. For what? To increase my stats? Collect funny quips?
    So I went from twice a week to once every 10 +/- days. And , yes, the stats dropped. But the payoff was in a different form. With all that extra time I’d gained not sitting in front of the computer I: Made a lunch or coffee date (each week) with someone in my address book I’d forgotten about. Took classes. Sang in a choir. Excercised. Did a relay for life. Helped Friends of the Library. Volunteered—for events with a couple of organizations I’d never even known about..but was so humbled by their work.
    I’m not saying Everyone should give up blogging but I think you hit the nail on the head, Red. Balance in our real community is just as important as balance in our virtual one. Either way…lives are touched and changed. Phooey on stats.
    Thanks for the light you shine in the corners of our lives, and make us think.
    Barb recently posted..Memorial Day Cooking Made EasyMy Profile

    • Red

       /  June 1, 2012

      Oh, Barb, you are so sweet. You have been doing some amazing things. You are making a difference. It is fulfilling to see how much you change the lives of others while you change your own. Not much chance I will give up blogging, but I do have quite a large real world as well. So very glad to see you today.

  4. I know some of my neighbours by name and have a nice friendship with a few, others on my street wave or say hello to me and I them, of course there are always one or two that are a bit off putting but that is just human nature and nothing to worry about 🙂 Besides the good outweigh the bad so it’s definitely a positive feel to the neighbourhood, well it is on my street anyway and if they don’t, then I can just send the Zombies round 🙂 lol

    On Thursdays it is our Orgy of the week and everyone joins in with that one, actually there are a number of party dwellers that strip off and entertain us with their naked belly dancing act, whilst at the other end of the street there are the usual suspects handing out their brand of nudity and being so noisy in the bushes…

    Erm… Yes you’ave guessed
    it, I am just joking 🙂 😉 lmfao

    I have enjoyed reading your posting Red and I am just going to wish you a very nice rest of Friday and an incredibly sweet weekend also, just in case I take the weekend off, nooooo not in the bushes 🙂 😉 lol

    Androgoth XXx

    • Red

       /  June 1, 2012

      I rather think of neighborhoods as classrooms. We do not like all the children in the class, but it does not interfere with our forming bonds and working together for good causes and to have a good time. Enjoy your weekend. Are there races this weekend?

      • No races sheduled for this weekend, but next week it is Canada so I will be watching that one with some interest 🙂 I am late on the computer this evening and am not planning on staying on for too long sooooooooooooooo my time is limited for catching up (again :() but I am going to try a bit harder next week so perhaps there will be some improvements on my frequency of visiting you here 🙂 🙂 Hope so anyway 😉

        Have a very nice rest of evening Red and be wicked, as usual for you then 🙂 lol

        Androgoth XXx

  5. Hi Red! 🙂

    I know most of my neighbours by sight, several by name and try to stop and chat when I can.

    In my block we have two drug addicts, one alcoholic, one recently separated with a young son, Ollie and Denise who are good friends of mine and two new ones who never poke their noses out of the door, so I have no idea who they are! 🙂

    When I’m out and about I often say hi to neighbours who are on the street and stop to chat with several if they are out working on their car or doing their gardening.

    All it takes is a little effort – unfortunately people are really afraid of strangers thanks to the media and a government who go to great lengths to make us fear anyone outside our doors…

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Friday – more editing.My Profile

    • Red

       /  June 1, 2012

      Glad to hear that, Pren. I agree with the whole “fear of strangers” thing. Good thing I have a disarming smile. Otherwise people would run from me 😉 Or, wait, maybe that is AFTER they meet me. *giggles* {HUGZ} Red.

  6. No parties yet, but we just got invited to a neighbor’s grad party. My husband knows them all well. I know them too, but not being an outdoor person ( and much more quiet) … We’re working on it 🙂

  7. Great post Red. That is so true. When we were kids we knew everyone in our area. How often when I go for a walk I say hello to people only to be completely ignored. The world sure has changed for the worse

  8. I think some of our neighbors would have a heart attack if anyone said hello. It’s just not done. What’s weird is that the kids are just the right age for playing with each other in many cases, but you have to “woo” the parents for months to make a playdate happen.
    Liquorstore Bear recently posted..Wine labels and shelf talkers that really say somethingMy Profile

    • Red

       /  June 3, 2012

      What complete and utter arrogance. Those kind of parents raise anti-social memes who can do nothing but call “Mommy” when something is not delivered perfectly and on cue. Ugh.

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