Wednesday, July 04, 2007
In Praise of Neighbors
Twice a year, in July and again in October, my neighborhood holds a block party. We shut the street to cars, meet in the middle, and share food and company. The kids enjoy the freedom of riding bikes and scooters in the street. The adults are reminded of what neighborhoods are about. We talk and catch up. We share our favorite foods. We connect.
I grew up in neighborhoods with this kind of feel. It seemed natural when I was a child; now it seems downright old-fashioned. People looked out for one another...and kept track of the kids. Lost pets were returned; cups of sugar were borrowed; fresh garden produce was shared (and even the zucchini was welcomed). When I moved here two years ago, I chose the house because the neighborhood had the look and feel of what I wanted: big trees, green yards, sidewalks, and front porches. It seemed like a place with good neighbors.
And looks did not deceive. These folks are terrific and always ready with a smile and a wave. J and A, who live two doors down, scrupulously maintain the yard of the elderly man next door. Come nor'easter time, the snow blower owners always help those of us equipped with just a shovel. D, the man with the beautiful garden across the street, came across the street with his wrench to help me remove the training wheels from JT's bike. G next door helped me remove the rusty old sprinkler from my hose when the time came for a new sprinkler. And in an act far beyond simply being neighborly, N replaced my faucet when it broke off. It was a tedious job requiring extraordinary patience and hours of his time.
All of these things are offered in the spirit of kindness and neighborliness that seems a bit old-fashioned in these days of busy lives and 4 car garages. But on Second Street twice a year we pause to appreciate and enjoy the neighborhood. And because we take that time, we are able to reap the rewards all year long.
So today I will toast my nation's independence and my neighborhood's dependence. And I will enjoy the laughter of kids with water balloons and bicycles and grown ups with extra tomatoes and a willingness to help out.
Plus, I will enjoy a neighborhood potluck featuring grilled hot dogs, cold beer, and sushi. Because, hey, I live in New Jersey and that's how we do it here.