Do good fences make good neighbors?
Of this, I am unsure. But a home in our neighborhood is now surrounded by newly planted planks.
[Insert echoes of a nail gun here]
Last night, dinner finished late, and I was desperate for adult conversation with my husband. We decided to go for a “sweat”, which in the Deep South means walking in 94 degree weather as the sun is setting.
If you want to know your neighbors, all you have to do is commit yourself to a consistent weekly walk. In our three years in Georgia, we have learned the stories of nearly all those who surround our home.
There’s the teenager in the color guard who spins a black flag.
A single mother who works day and night to provide for two growing boys.
And a mail carrier – decades older than us – who can easily run circles around me.
I am increasingly convinced that neighbors can become a village if we choose to love. For our family, the community just outside our door is one we have embraced, and our lives are better for it.
As we set off on our humid stroll, I felt compelled to gripe about my own difficulties – until we reached a curve in the road. An elderly neighbor who lives alone greeted us with a weak smile. Overcome with emotion, she shared her painful grief: her beloved canine companion of 13 years was put to sleep over the weekend.
A few blocks later, more struggle. Another family – in the midst of raising four small children – was mourning the loss of a loved one.
Warning: When you get to know those around you, you get perspective.
As a mother, I can’t escape the call for empathy. So I drove my disheveled self to the Dollar Tree and purchased treats for neighbors that needed only to be reminded that they are loved and remembered. Somewhere in the discomfort and inconvenience, I forgot all about the ungrateful attitude that began our walk.
Walls and fences that we construct only truly divide if they prevent us from seeing the humans – equally in need of love – on the other side.
And perhaps it is good listening that makes good neighbors.