“To create organs for neighborly help and initiative, to meet face to face for personal assessment and vivid discussion, to take part in communal celebrations, not in vast anonymous masses, but in a circle of identifiable faces and persons, all these survivals of aboriginal village life are still necessary. They keep intact the close chain of sympathetic responses in which man first securely established himself as irrevocably human: these friendly eyes are the indispensable mirror in which the self beholds its own image.” Lewis Mumford
Looking back from my current window of life, I remember growing up in a rural community on nearly an acre of woods and fields. Most of the homes were built in the early 1900s, as once these homes were considered beach cabins of the early Seattle settlers, so there was distance between neighbors’ homes. What I remember best about my childhood is that the neighbors supported one another and helped out when someone needed assistance. Plus, at Christmas, the neighbors would all come by to celebrate at our home. Or as a small child when I ended up outside alone in the middle of the night, a neighbor heard my cries and screams, only to dress to come rescue me and put me back to bed. Our elderly neighbor we called, Aunt Lyda and Uncle Jim, even though they were of no relation… they just were dear people we loved and treated as family.
One neighbor was a nurse so she came down to our house to give my brother and me our shots. Ok, so I didn’t appreciate the shots, as she kept saying, “Relax Gwynn, I can’t shoot the needle into your bottom.” However, my mom appreciated not having to cart my brother and me the long way to the doctor’s office for our check-ups. Heck, in “those days” our doctor even came to our house. We all looked out for one another.
Now-a-days with the growth of towns and the attempt to stop suburban growth, more and more developments of homes have mushroomed up all over the United States replacing many of the “beach communities” from the “old days” when we had room to romp around between homes. To quantify profit, builders learned to maximize the use of the land. Plus, again to simplify life and increase profit they built only two or three different plans of homes, with similar colors. Now the homes look like a giant came along with a cookie-cutter making identical homes. I’m surprised people don’t absent-mindedly walk into the wrong home like accidentally climbing into the wrong car. “Hi, Honey, I’m home! Oh, you aren’t my wife… oops!”
Of course now, people can practically hear the conversations in the home next door as the homes are lined up like a row of dominos. The views of nature that we once enjoyed now consist of looking into your neighbor’s house, so they have to draw their blinds. Once I remember coming downstairs in my bathrobe as I had just awakened early one morning. My husband had left for his walk, but had opened all our blinds. As I walked through the living room toward the kitchen for my cup of tea, another neighbor out for his morning walk could see clear through my house, witnessed me in my bathrobe, so he quickly changed directions and headed back toward his home. Towns that once had a “community feel” no longer enjoy that familiar feeling because of this overbearing closeness. We look for privacy in our lives. We no longer look at ways to work together to help one another. Instead there is the constant animosity in developments. People are more than likely to “flip-off” their neighbor when they walk out the front door rather than to wave at them to say “hi” or stop to chat.
For convenience sake we dramatically have changed the style of our lives and with that we have cut ourselves off from the support and love of our neighbors. I truly hope that we can change our way of life and thinking, but as I see more apartments and condos appear I fear that we will become less willing to create a cooperative environment.
A few years ago I moved out to a slightly rural area, very similar to the style of neighborhood where I grew up. Here, neighbors watch out for one another and help one another. My neighbors even bring us gifts of garden vegetables, pumpkin bread, and cookies. I feel like I have come home!