We live on a short side street nestled between two larger side streets. The way our little street is situated, we essentially have one house on either side of us and one across the street.
If you drove down my street on Sunday morning, here’s what you would have seen: our next door neighbor (we’ll call him R), shoveling the driveway across the street. That driveway belongs to E, a young guy with a wife and daughter. E wasn’t home at the time because he was getting his snow plow ready to come down our street to make it easier for the rest of us (who park on the street) to move our cars – despite the fact that he has a three-car garage and driveway of his own.
Meanwhile, Mike was shoveling the driveway of our elderly neighbor on the other side so she could get to church on time. And that neighbor was telling him that we should park one of our cars in her driveway the next time we know a big snowstorm is about to hit.
The good neighbor effect.
On Halloween, after the trick-or-treating wound down, we all congregated outside. The kids tore through their candy and exchanged Twix bars for lollipops. The adults stood around chatting (perhaps holding a mug of beer or glass of wine) and wondered why it was that our little street kept getting skipped over by trick-or-treaters.
Next year, we said, we would coordinate decorations. Lights and fog and spooky sounds — they wouldn’t be able to resist us!
The good neighbor effect.
These are neighbors who give you tips on the cheapest local garbage hauler. Neighbors who run out of their homes when your child falls on his face and offer him a toy to stop the tears. Neighbors who ring your doorbell, hands full with bags of Ryan-sized hand-me-downs.
When R didn’t see my car for a few days, he figured we had taken off for Ohio for Thanksgiving. So he lugged our trash cans to the curb for us on garbage day. Meanwhile, E bagged up the leaves we piled at the curb and hauled them off to be composted because he was taking some of his anyway.
It never would have occurred to us to ask them to do that. In fact, as we drove back home across Pennsylvania after Thanksgiving, we were discussing what to do with all those leaves and that we’d have some extra garbage for next week’s pick-up.
Honestly, every time our neighbors do something kind for us, Mike and I are a little stunned. I’ve written about the succession of no-good folk (and their dogs) who lived next to us in our condo in Phoenix.
By the time Ryan turned a year old, we’d had enough of the condo scene and moved to a house. We lived there for 18 months and never got to know a single neighbor. We all suffered from Attached-Garage Syndrome, in which one exits and enters their home multiple times a day but never sees a single neighbor because everyone is raising the garage door, pulling in and immediately shutting out the world.
It always felt like something was missing and now we know what it was: a sense of community. A sense of safety. Not that you feel immune to bad things happening but that you know someone else is looking out for your home and your family. And you are happy to do the same for them.
The good neighbor effect. It makes a place feel like a home.