I recently viewed a TV commercial purporting to bring neighbors together by providing a smores block party—”getting to know you” over gooey concoctions of melted chocolate and marshmallows smashed between graham crackers. Fun, right? The sobering part of the commercial was the statement that only 31% of people actually know their neighbors. Wondering if that number was factual, I asked Google. The answer is, “Yes.” Different studies have come up with slightly different percentages, but all agree—we’re not loving our neighbors. In many cases, we don’t even know their names.
Growing up in 1950’s small town America, I knew the name of everyone in my neighborhood, and everyone knew me. My family wasn’t great friends with every person on our street, but we all got along. In the summertime, adults sat on front porches and chatted with each other while we kids ran across unfenced lawns collecting fireflies in glass bottles, releasing them at the bedtime call. We roamed free and stayed out of trouble because everyone was watching.
Poor us—we had no cell phones or computers on which to play. TV was new and there weren’t a lot of viewing choices. In fact, TV didn’t appear in many homes until the mid-fifties. Neighbors, who had one, often shared. A TV magically appeared in my home on my eighth birthday. Until then, every Saturday night my parents put me in my PJs, and we trekked up the street to a friend’s house to watch Uncle Milty’s Texaco Hour. Big hit!
Today, people claim they are “too busy” to get to know their neighbors. I’m guilty of that. I do know the names of the neighbors on either side of me. We’re not great friends but we wave, “Hi!” in passing. Ron, my neighbor to the right, keeps an eye on my place when I’m away. I know one neighbor across the street by name, Margaret. She was kind enough to come to my door and greet me when I moved into the neighborhood. Last summer she gave me some seedlings to plant in my garden. I’m going to invite her over soon. I’ve been saving that since I moved here three years ago. Continue reading