In the early 1900’s radio was blamed for the disintegration of neighborly community. A ridiculous concept, of course, as everyone knows television slaughtered suburbia. These theories are now all passé—current thought is that keyboards are doing the killing. Charles Blow states, “I increasingly believe that less neighborliness is becoming intrinsic to the modern American experience — a most unfortunate development,” and, “I am very much aware that social networks are rewiring our relationships and that our keyboard communities are affecting the attachments in our actual ones.” I see Mr. Blows’ smoke, um, point here while at the same time wondering what world Mr. Blow lives in.
While visiting the orthodontist this week my daughter, Hailey, ran into one of her friends. The girls eagerly chatted while both I and the other dad sought to exit the office with girls in tow---with no success. We, the fathers, introduced ourselves and spent the next five minutes discussing work, his daughters’ adoption, the local junior high school and retirement. Pulling out of the parking lot I made comment to Hailey that he’d had his daughter since she was three. “Boy, he shared a lot with you,” she said. In five minutes we’d established a delightful neighborly bond.
Satisfying my desire and keeping an earlier commitment I purchased a rose bush this week; an Ingrid Bergman, mildly scented and burgundy red. While out in front of my house (and perhaps that is key) watering, two of my neighbors stopped by and commented. One told me that she’d moved into her house last year with thirty plants but only three had survived. She loves roses and was now planning on visiting the local nursery to buy one. Cindy’s tree shares its shade with my yard. Cindy’s flower-bed inspired me to add color to the front of my house; and we had a short conversation regarding the beautification of the neighborhood.
I sit in front of my computer as much as the next guy (though maybe not as much as the girl I work with who is addicted to “World of Warcraft.”) Walking out of my front door life presented opportunity for “tangible, meaningful engagement” with a network of neighbors. I even asked Cindy to water “Ingrid” while I was on vacation. Perhaps all it takes is being approachable and a willingness to say, “Hi.” Reaching out with hands wide open makes us better ourselves and leads to stronger community---there Charles Blow and I fully agree.