Are you friends with the people next door?
When my husband and I moved to Elgin, Ilinois lover twenty years ago, I wasn't expecting Mayberry, but, I assumed that we'd have made some friends, by now.
It certainly isn't for lack of trying. For example, when the single mother with a couple of kids moved into the home directly across the street from us, I went over and welcomed her to the neighborhood. I even brought her a lovely plant. That was the first and last time we spoke.
Our neighborhood is roughly fifty percent Hispanic and fifty percent "everything else." Not that it matters. I just want you to get an accurate portrayal of whereabouts we are.
The older gentleman that lives across the fence from us only recently started acknowledging our presence. Turns out, he's a very nice man. His wife, however, has never said a word to us.
It's funny how things have changed. Well, more like "sad." Some of you may remember when neighbors could be counted on such seemingly mundane, but important tasks as checking on your pets if you had to work late, and vice versa, or lending you the odd household tool. These humble gestures of humanity have fallen by the wayside, like so much else in our society.
I've tried. I have. I've attended several of the yearly "block parties," where the same neighbor invites others to hang out on their lawn for an hour or two, for what purpose I'm still not certain. Because that is the only time I see these people. The hosts also invite a member of the Elgin PD to attend and spout nonsense about how the force is making the neighborhood safe for we taxpayers.
Unless I'm mistaken, that's what they signed on for. I will say that street racing is not as common as it has been in previous years, so my hat's off to the PD for that.
As it turns out, there are many people who feel as I do: That merely being a good neighbor is a quaint idea that harkens back to "olden times." According to Bloomberg.Com, nearly a third of Americans say they've never interacted with the people next door.
Marc Dunkelman, a public policy fellow at Brown University, says the following. "In the 1920s through the 1960s, there was this sort of cohort effect, in which people … were more inclined in many cases to find security that existed in neighborhoods,” he says. “They depended on one another much more.”
Of course, then, we had the Great Depression and the Cuban Missile Crisis to deal with. Today, it's Covid, dirty politics, world hunger, climate change and a whole host of other issues that contribute to widespread anxiety and depression.
The article goes on to stress that Americans are growing farther apart and talking less with people who have different opinions. "Talking less," certainly. And arguing more. Much more. As everyone with an opinion has a forum to share that opinion, no matter how erroneous, it's no surprise that many of us have become insulated, and isolated.
Also, the need to drive everywhere, especially amid suburban sprawl, has contributed to our lack of neighborly behavior. We get in our cars. We go where we need to. And then we go home.
I, for one, would love to have a coffee shop or book store within walking distance. I enjoy talking to people and will often strike up a conversation whenever the opportunity arises. People need that as there is so much sadness afoot. It doesn't take much to make someone smile, and the impact of that is far greater than you imagine.
How do the rest of you feel about this? It was different when my husband and I lived in an apartment in the city. Of course, in that environment, you're almost forced to speak to one another given your close proximity.
I wish I had answers for you. But, maybe you'll have some for me. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and thanks so much for reading.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2022. All Rights Reserved.