This was written in response to today’s prompt Neighbors, from The Daily Post, a good site for helping you get to know your neighbors on WordPress.com. It was written with Bear, and edited using ProWritingAid.
I grew up in small towns, brought up with the notion that people in cities don’t know their neighbors. I believed that notion. I thought it reasonable that city folk, having come from other places and having myriad options for work and entertainment, might have neither the time nor inclination to get to know the people around them.
Good lord, was I wrong.
I now live in Anaheim, California. People may argue that Anaheim—even all of Orange County—is just a suburb of Los Angeles. But Anaheim boasts a population of over 300,000 people. If St. Louis is a city, then Anaheim is, too. And in Anaheim, I know my neighbors.
I know the military couple who rent the condo next to ours and whose Pomeranian owns more outfits than some children I’ve met. I know the athlete who lives alone, the Porsche mechanic whose wife lives in another country, the mechanic’s roommate and the mechanic’s cat, and the young couple at the end of the hall with their year-old daughter.
I know the people who live on the floor beneath ours, and the people whose units face the street.
In short, I know everyone who lives in our building.
My wife, Linda, and I know most of the people in the buildings immediately to the north and south of ours, as well as the building directly to the west. The further a building is from ours, the less likely we are to know its occupants.
We don’t know all the people on our block. That I’ll admit. But we might know all the dogs.
We know Winston, Brooklyn, and Jack (RIP), Bella and Bert. We know Rocco, Kona, Loki, Bodie, and Penny (who moved away). We know Charlie, Peyton and Kennedy. We know the American Eskimo dogs whose names we can’t pronounce. We know Sasha. We know Elway. We know well-dressed Bella. We know Miles who, like Penny, has moved away. We know Roxie, Lilo, Dumpster, Alphie, and Fiona.
We know our neighbors for two reasons. The first of these is interest.
Linda took interest in providing a platform for communication between neighbors, so she set up a private group on Nextdoor for people—homeowners and renters, alike—who live in our development. She then took on the task of getting everyone to join.
She’s done well. A high percentage of our neighbors have joined the group, and it’s more active than I expected, with people using the platform to find lost packages, announce HOA meetings and maintenance projects, discuss problems, and organize to find solutions.
The second reason is that we have a dog. Some of our neighbors interact with us because of our—admittedly ridiculously cute—dog. Even before adopting Nena, we knew our dog-owning neighbors, collectively, better than those without dogs. People who own dogs tend to walk them. They wander outside more often than people without dogs, and that makes them more available for social interaction.
As does the dog, itself.
It’s acceptable to want to greet another person’s dog, to want to pet that dog, to ask their name and their sex and their age, and to talk baby talk to them upon introduction.
Try that behavior with your adult, human neighbor. I dare ya. Unabashed delight is reserved for pets and small children.
In the last small town I lived in, for roughly twenty years, I knew my immediate neighbors, but not much beyond that. I didn’t know my neighbors there any better than I know my neighbors here.
In fact, the reverse is true.
Want to know your neighbors?
Live where you want.
Take interest in the people around you. Sometimes, their concerns are—or should be—your concerns.
Then get yourself a dog.
Edited November 3rd and 4th, 2017, to add links to a few of my favorite “neighborly” posts based on the prompt: