Our American Neighbors

Nikki - Braselton, Georgia
Entered on October 17, 2011

I believe all human beings have a place for kindness in their hearts. People might look grumpy, old, and mean, but if you just take a little time to be around them, then you probably will see a different side of them.

My parents worked hard to raise my five siblings and me. At the dinner table, we always shared our stories of events going on in our lives. My parents always took the time to tell stories and taught us about being considerate to others. “Don’t do things to others that you don’t want them to do to you,” my dad always said, and I still hear it from him today. I think he learned these words from the Bible. I grew up with his quote in my head so that whenever I’m about to act unfriendly, my father’s words will help me change my attitude.

My parents are the kindest people I know, especially my dad. His manners are his top priority. He will not pass a person without a smile or saying “Hello,” and the words “Thank you” are always on the tip of his tongue. My parents have always been nice to people around them, and everyone loved them back. Everything went well up until last year, when my family moved into our new neighborhood. The house to the right of our home belongs to an old, grumpy white couple. On the first day we moved to the neighborhood, our neighbors greeted us with a warning not to ever park on the side of the road in front of their home. They never spoke to us nor waved at us in the morning when we said “Hello.” My parents told my siblings and me to stay away from their property and be on our best behavior when we saw our grumpy neighbor couple. We often saw them watching us from their windows when we got home or played outside. One day, my dad picked up a big piece of wood from my neighbors’ driveway and put it in our trashcan. We were not sure how the wood got there, but it had nails sticking out of it, and it looked like a wood piece from the construction site on the next block. My dad said it would not have been good if someone had driven over the wood. Our neighbors must have seen my dad doing this because we saw the husband gave us a quick smile the next morning when we were leaving our driveway. It was not a very friendly smile, but at least it was the first smile that we got from them.

About a week after we received a smile from our neighbor, my family had a get-together party. My mom made delicious egg rolls, and she saved a plate full to give to our next-door neighbors. Our neighbors’ car was parked in their driveway so we knew they were home, but when my mom went over to knock on their door, they did not come out. My mom brought the egg rolls home and said that the couple might be asleep. Some weeks later, my mom made a tray full of tasty fried rice, and again she thought of the neighbors. My dad this time stopped her from taking the food to them: “They see you coming with the food and worry what you might have put in it. That’s why they don’t answer the door when you knock,” my dad said. “Well, there is nothing in my food but healthy ingredients and the love I put in it,” she replied. They answered their door this time and accepted the food my mom brought over. They did not communicate much because my mom speaks very little English.

After the day the neighbors took my mom’s food, my mom started to go and knock on their door more often. Sometimes she brought food, other times she brought tropical fruits or things from our country that she wanted to share with them. I was home one day, and the door bell rang. I answered the door, and it was my neighbor. The wife came over with a bag full of cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden. I accepted her vegetables with a “Thank you,” and before I closed the door she told me her name was Patricia and her husband’s name was Frank. She also told me my parents are kind people and that nobody ever knocked on their door to give them food like my mom did.

I don’t know when my parents started calling my neighbors “Frank and Patricia” instead of “the neighbors.” Our families started visiting each other more often. My siblings and I are not always home, but we know that besides sharing food, vegetables grown from their gardens, or things that they feel like sharing, Frank and Patricia are even teaching my parents English.

Perhaps we are Asian and look different, or something else kept our neighbors from not wanting to be around us at first, but conditions can change and people can, too. My parents’ actions might have changed my neighbors’ way of looking at others, or the neighbors might have changed themselves.