A while back, I spent a year and a half living in the Los Angeles area while I was working on a project. I lived in a nice enough neighborhood in Pasadena, but the neighbors were really close. I mean reach-out-your-window-to-pass-the-sugar-to-your-neighbor close. On all sides.
I returned to my native Ann Arbor, MI roots after that period and vowed I was going to get some elbow room. I did. The house, while in Ann Arbor, was in a woods on a court with 12 other houses. I was at the end of the court. You couldn't see tanother house from my house and you couldn't see my house from the courtyard. Ah... seclusion... I got what I wanted.
Fast forward a few months to see me sitting in my kitchen wondering why none of my neighbors had come over to welcome me to the neighborhood. Well, let's see. If you pick a house in a secluded woods that can't be seen, and it's in an area of other secluded houses, the odds are your neighbors are there because they want to be secluded, not neighborly.
What's your neighborhood like? Maybe a better question is what does the choice of where you live say about your desire to be connected to your neighborhood? My woods-house story was an "A-ha" moment for me. I realized in picking a place to live I had focused heavily on the building and physical context, not the community.
Not much you can do about that now. You are there. Even if your next "neighbor" if five miles away, that's your neighborhood. This post is simply a request to think about your neighborhood. Make it a conscious effort to realize where you live and who is around you - or the fact that you are isolated.
I suspect in most cases, once we think about it, we realize we have more neighbors than we realize. Vicki and I are quite active with the neighbors on our street. I should say SOME of the neighbors. There is an older woman who lives alone across the street from us. I see here nearly every day when she walks here dogs. We say hi. But I don't think I have ever really talked with her.
Here is what motivated today's post. Yesterday there was a jar of homemade preserves on our porch from this woman. What a wonderful neighborly thing to do. I didn't deserve it. I haven't been a good neighbor. And that starts with the fact that I hadn't consciously thought about my neighborhood.