Whenever I move into a new neighborhood, I always think that I should go and introduce myself to my neighbors. Unfortunately I never quite get around to it. I’ll usually get to know the people right next door (And I’m lucky in that I happen to have fantastic next door neighbors these days), but that’s about it. I will wave and smile at people as I drive past them on the street and leave it at that. I’m shy. I like my privacy. And if I’m honest, I’m rather lazy.
But recently I desperately needed my neighbors’ help. My dog ran away. After exhausting all other resources (more to come on that in a future blog entry), I was getting desperate. So I printed up a mini-flyer with my dog’s picture and my contact information, and I knocked on every single door on my street.
Sometimes people weren’t home, so I’d tape the flyer to their door handle and leave. Other times it was quite obvious that they were there, but they refused to come to the door. For Pete’s sake, I’m just a fat old lady. I don’t pose any threat. But they probably thought I was going to hand them a religious tract or something. Fine. I’d leave my flyer for them, too.
But about half the people did come to the door, and when I’d tell them my story, they’d express sympathy and say they’d keep an eye out. That was a great comfort to me. There are a lot of genuinely decent people on my street.
But what was most intriguing about the process was that I have a completely different view of my neighborhood now. First of all, it’s a lot more diverse than I realized. People pretty much keep to themselves. When I took this opportunity to talk to them, I was treated to a variety of accents and couplings and age groups and skin colors. That really delighted me.
And just by standing in their doorways, I was able to draw a great deal of conclusions. They may not be accurate, but they were fascinating. It seems that one family cares for an extremely disabled, wheelchair-bound man. Another couple has adopted or fosters a child of a different race. Love it! Another guy is obviously a very old and rather lonely bachelor. Some people are struggling financially. Others had well-appointed homes. Some had mellow households, others were ruled by chaos.
I came away from these encounters rather impressed with how many different ways there are to live life. I came away feeling like I was part of a larger community. Even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, I’m glad I took the time to knock on my neighbors’ doors.
(Oh, and by the way, my dog and I were reunited after two of the longest days of my life. Yay!)