Outdoing the Joneses?

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

In the neighborhood where I grew up, I didn't know most of my neighbors. Wewere in a suburb west of Minneapolis, and the only neighbors with whom I regularly interacted were the ones who lived directly across the street.

In fact, very nearby were neighbors who feuded. One knocked down their neighbor's tree to put up a privacy fence. The "victims" didn't complain, but fumed. When the tree killers let their dog do his business in the same neighbors' yard, the angry neighbors came outside and threw it back on the offending neighbor's property.

Not nice. Not pretty.

I'm thankful that is not my situation in Greencastle. In fact, far from this American idea of keeping up with the Joneses, our neighborhood has more of an "outdoing the Joneses' kindness" feel.

I'm not sure it happened intentionally. Yes, we did go out of our way to introduce ourselves to our neighbors upon moving here. Yes, we do bring baked goods to those who move in. But, over time, we just found ourselves practicing kindness toward each other.

We loan our neighbor our pressure washer, he gives our son a cool, hand-me-down remote-controlled car. We shovel an older neighbor's sidewalk, she brings over a plate of freshly baked cookies.

We got to the place where my husband had two male neighbors looking out for us when he'd travel. He gave them easy access to and usage of our snow blower, and the two of them would not only clear snow for us, but for each other. Whoever got there first did the snow-blowing.

This is true of almost all equipment between the neighborhood men on our side of the street: pressure washer, snow blower, lawn mower, table saw… one has it, the others can use it. Whoever uses it fills it up with gas if needed. And one very handy neighbor will fix just about anything.

And I can't even tell you how many times various neighbors have helped withour pets!

But one thing I like about this is that it's not just things that we share with each other or do for each other, but it's the relationships. We are real people who care about each other. We choose to communicate.

One morning at 4 AM I bolted upright in my bed. It sounded like an urban block party was happening outside my (closed) window. My husband was gone and I suspected where the music was coming from, so I headed outside in my pajamas.

Sure enough: it was coming from the suspected neighbor's house. Yes, I could have called the police. But instead I walked over and knocked (I ended up having to pound in order to be heard) on their door. The suspected teen-aged daughter answered the door. "Karisa (name changed), you need toturn down your music. You probably don't realize how loud it is, but someone might call the police."

"Sorry, Miss Stephanie," she replied sheepishly. "We'll turn it down right away."

She turned it down, and back to bed I went.

After all, I can sleep fairly easily, knowing that I live in a neighborhood where we're looking out for each other.