Amazon Prime released a series called “Them”. It is set in the 1950’s, and it tells the story of a Black family that moves into an all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles. Watching this show reminds me of the fact that my parents were the second Black family on our street. This was well before I was born but I’ve heard the story all my life.
The female neighbor next door told the other neighbor on the opposite side that since N-words lived there now she didn’t want “their” plums falling in her yard. So the other neighbor cut the plum tree in our back yard down in the middle of the night. My daddy, being who he was, burned the man’s storage shed down and cut his fig tree down. This kind of thing went on for a few years.
By the time I was born, there was another plum tree, fig tree, and storage shed. The neighbor who didn’t want the N-word’s plums in her yard ended up babysitting me after school, and her grandchildren who spent the summer with her stayed in our house and back yard most of the time. We played,fought, and got spankings together too many times to count. We even painted them black with charcoal and dog poop once and all ended up in the bathtub together.
Over the years, TWO men who originally hated one another got older and sickly, but by this time they both had spare keys to each other’s homes in case of an emergency. The man who had cut our plum tree down at one point had the pleasure of cleaning up after my dad after he had soiled himself, and he stayed there with my dad until my mom got home. He also cooked for him on dialysis days.
My dad would sometimes ride his wheelchair down to the other man’s house to take a plate of food my mom had made, or they would have a cup of coffee standing out on the property line they once cursed at each other over.
Both of those neighbors are long gone now. All I have are fond memories of them both. When my brother passed, the male neighbor was the first person to hug and kiss me and tell me he loved me. The female neighbor left me my favorite one of her tea cups that she used to use for sun-tea and allowed me to use for my after school snack. Until the male neighbor was well into his 80’s he helped my mom in any way possible without her having to even ask. His family still sends her greeting cards and gifts from time to time.
The show “Them” is a trigger for many reasons, but from a cinematic perspective, it is very suspenseful, and this can make it easy for us to forget the advice to love thy neighbor. If we all put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes and committed to truly loving them, imagine how much greater we could become as individuals, families, and communities.
How diverse is the neighborhood you live in? Are your neighbors a big part of your family’s life?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Disha Ellis. Photo credit to the author.
Do you remember those movies in which a new family moves into a neighborhood, and one of the neighbors brings them a pie as a welcoming gesture? Maybe you have been the recipient of such a gift, or maybe the giver. Maybe, you have done neither and additionally do not know your neighbors. I must say I have been guilty of not being the pie-bringer, although it always looked so nice and like the joyful & peaceful thing to do.
Over the last two years I have been better at this, but truth be told, my mother would be doing a much better job and by now she would know everyone in half mile radius! There is one neighbor with whom I have a food exchange every so often. He is the one who calls on us and we can call on him when in need of some flour, or bug spray (Florida bugs want their swamp back), or someone to keep an eye out for our teen if we aren’t home when she gets back from school.
A man lives down the road and if it weren’t for his injured dog, we may have never struck a conversation. There is a guy everyone goes to when they need their car washed, gutters cleaned, or lawn mowed for a little money. Down the road there is a sweet older lady with a name that makes you want to know if she is a spy or what intriguing life stories she may have. I haven’t asked her yet, but I will. For now she is my ‘hugging’ neighbor while with all the others I exchange nods, waves, and the occasional, “How do you do?”, and “Just trying to stay out of this heat!” The corner/convenience store is owned by some cool people, whom I would feel safe sending my teen girl to buy groceries from.
That’s really it. My motivation for getting to know my neighbors has realistically been for the safety of my children and my family as a whole.
I want to know we can walk around safely, and that no one would bother my daughter. In the event that a stranger walked on this road, I want to know that my neighbors will intervene on my behalf to ensure my daughter’s safety. I want to know that if she goes to the convenience store on her own, that they will give her exact change if she miscounts.
Ideally I would know all my neighbors. I would have been in their homes at least once if it seemed safe, and if not that, I would at least know their names. So what’s stopped me? Maybe wanting to stay out of people’s business. As a photographer I have become sensitive to people’s want for privacy, and maybe I am spreading that sensitivity to situations that don’t really need it. After all, some people are just camera-shy, but would love to share a recipe, or a story, or know they can come to you if they need their trash bin put on the curb if they won’t be here on trash day.
Maybe getting to know our neighbors is a part of making make the world seem less crazy, technological advances less calculated, and absence of family less cold as the family that neighbors can be brings warmth in our lives. Of course this may be the case if our neighbors aren’t what makes the world a crazy, sad, and maddening place.
How about you and your family – do you know your neighbors well? Do you think there was more emphasis on getting to know your neighbors in years past? Does the type of neighborhood you live in play a factor in whether you get to know the people next door, or make you keep your distance?
Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts & experiences 🙂
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credit to the author.