Let’s Bring Back Old-School Neighborliness

Huy X. Le April 17, 2013 0
Let’s Bring Back Old-School Neighborliness

Hi everyone. In the past few months, I’ve just been talking about baby and baby birthing and eating placentas and stuff. Having a baby is one of those things in life that absolutely consumes you. Other things along the same line are planning a wedding, buying a house and watching the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Apologies. I’ll try to balance out the baby talk with other stuff. I mean, I haven’t made fun of the Tea Party for a long time, for example.

Recently, our microwave died. Jameelah, who is still pregnant with this stubborn baby that refuses to come out, wanted to eat some leftover pasta, but we couldn’t heat it up. I thought about steaming the pasta, but all of our pots and pans have been crusted over and would take a long time to wash. I was seriously considering running down to Target at 8:30 p.m. to buy a new microwave when I thought: “Hey, maybe I can just go over to a neighbor’s place and ask to use their microwave.” So I did, and they were more than glad to let me heat up the pasta. “Anytime,” he said when I left.

For the past few decades we have been gradually moving toward something I call “social siloism,” where even though we live in a community and are in proximity with other members, we do not interact. Some of us live for years next to people and may not even know their names. Whatever happened to those Lucy and Ethel days when neighbors can just pop in to say “hi,” or call up to ask for a cup of sugar or pint of moonshine? Most of the time, we are complete strangers among people to whom we are geographically closest. At worst, we live in fear of our neighbors, thinking they might just be meth makers or arms dealers or worse, Tea Party members. This totally defeats the purpose of a community.

I say we start being better neighbors and take advantage of being in close geographic proximity. Here are some tips I thought of for how we can all get to know our neighbors better and start being more neighborly.

  • Stop and talk to your neighbors when you see them. At first, it is very awkward since you have nothing in common with these people so far, except that you’re in the same general area. Our first instinct is to avoid them and quickly get inside our place to avoid the uncomfortable conversations. However, try to get over that and spend more than 10 seconds talking to them, and you may realize they are fascinating people who are not serial killers at all.
  • Bring over a basket of baked goods. Sure, you may have lived next to these people for three years, but it is never too late to get to know someone. This, however, is Seattle, so make sure your baked goods are organic and gluten-free.
  • Next time you’re running to Trader Joe’s, call up a couple of your neighbors and ask if they want to come along or need anything. Likely they’ll decline, but they’ll appreciate the thought, and they might start reconsidering their suspicions that you’re a meth maker.
  • Invite them over to your place for a beer. Since none of us ever see what our neighbors’ places look like, we build up these weird and unrealistic images of their homes. When we see that everyone’s place is just as crappy and weird smelling as ours, it helps humanize us all.
  • Next time you run out of something small like a clove of garlic, ask your neighbor if they could spare some. People feel good when they are being helpful. Why the hell are all of us running to the store just to get an onion or a lime, when 99 percent of households around us already carry these items?
  • When you see door-to-door missionaries coming toward a neighbor’s place, intercept them and gently nudge them away. If we can all do this, we can protect our community from the ravages of door-to-door proselytizers.

It may take awhile to build up trust and break away from this cycle of each home being its own silo, but if we all attempt to be better neighbors, we’ll have a stronger community. Otherwise, the Tea Party wins.

Read more at www.jaggednoodles.com

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