I was told by my parents several years ago that I was known as the neighborhood ambassador when I was only two-years old. I had figured out how to open our door and would walk around the neighborhood and knock on neighbor’s doors and smile and say hello. This was usually met with cookies, toys, and the licking of my face by their dog.
I grew up in a neighborhood where I knew the names of my neighbors, their kids, and anyone who was interested in engaging in kickball; tree climbing, bike riding or skating. I was the kid who woke everyone up on Christmas day to play. I did school fundraisers for my neighborhood school. Usually the neighborhood kids and I ended up eating most of what we were to sell.
Knowing everyone had a benefit, I always had someone to play with. Summers included swimming at the local park, walks to the local store for cold sodas, running through the water hose, catching tadpoles, dog washes, and a whole host of things that if our parents knew we were doing it we would still be on house arrest.
I went to my neighborhood schools and knew most of the kids by walking home everyday. Except for the occasional scuffles, I never once worried about what kids worry about today. We made up games and the rules. House driveways were bases and neighbor’s yards were the outfield.
The neighborhood kids and I could also immediately spot a stranger. We were better than the FBI. We knew everyone who lived in the neighborhood. When people were there that we did not know or recognize, we knew. We checked on each other and were not afraid to go and tell any neighborhood adult when something happened. They knew us, they believed us, and they protected us. As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
I am single and nearly 40 and remembered all of this because I saw three boys in my neighborhood riding bikes. I have lived in my “planned community” for nearly four years and this was the first time I had seen this. Then I thought of something I had read recently where people found their neighbors deceased after several months and had never missed them. It made me wonder about the word community.
I believe in the value of neighbors. We go into our homes, close our blinds, and watch reality TV. Get to know your neighbors. Check on them, bring soup, magazines, share some wine, or help plant a spring garden. Dress up for Halloween, even if you don’t have any kids. Invite a neighbor over for Thanksgiving. I think I knew the value of neighbors at the age of two. Although I am older, I still smile after getting homegrown tomatoes and freshly baked cookies from my neighbors and even being kissed by their dog.