I’m not proud of it, but I’ll admit I could be described as an “unfriendly” neighbor most of the time. Despite there being very little space between our houses, I know none of my current neighbors. I have even been known to engage in imaginary cell phone conversations should I find myself exiting or entering my home at the same time as these strangers who live within such close proximity. It’s not that I don’t like people, but more a case of always feeling awkward about initiating the first wave, head nod or “good morning.” However, on December 27th something surprising occurred in my front yard, and I found myself working with these previously unknown people as we all offered assistance to a rather distressed young man.
That morning, I noticed my husband kept making several trips in and out of the house. I could not figure out what he was up to. After managing to pin him down for ten seconds, he explained that a young boy had accidentally flown his toy drone into the tall, gnarly tree that occupies a portion of our front yard. Understandably, the boy was quite distressed as his drone was now firmly stuck. Truly a disastrous situation! I could see how much he enjoyed the toy when I noticed him playing with it throughout much of the previous afternoon and even into the early evening as its bright perimeter lighting lit up a tiny part of the dusky sky. I remembered the look of joy on his face as he navigated the toy around his front yard and it was obvious he was especially enamored with this particular Christmas gift.
As my husband left to further assess the dire situation, I peered out the front door and discovered that the young boy was there along with two women who I later learned were his aunt and his mother. At first, I was slightly taken aback at this much activity in our usually uneventful front yard, but then decided I needed to lend a hand – we needed to reunite this child with his toy. I remembered we had a piece of lengthy left over PVC piping and thought it might be used to gently nudge the drone from its prison of spindly branches. I grabbed the piping and gingerly opened the front door ready to hand it over to my husband. I was surprised to find that, in the meantime, another set of neighbors had now joined in the rescue effort bringing with them their own lengthy piece of PVC pipe. (Who knew PVC piping remnants were so popular a household item?) I am pleased to report that between two sets of piping and six adults, the drone was set free and reunited with its very happy and relieved owner.
“Big deal!” you may be thinking to yourself. “Why are you even sharing this?” Well, although it may seem an insignificant event to most people, it was an unexpectedly significant event to me. I have of late felt utterly hopeless about the state of political and racial relations in this country. The divisiveness, destruction, and hatred that permeates the daily news can rapidly deplete one’s faith in humanity. Yes, this was a small, “un-newsworthy” moment of cooperation and caring in a small, middle-of-nowhere neighborhood, yet it brought together three sets of strangers who, until that point, hadn’t had much connection with each other. There was no thought of ethnic, economic, or political differences, we just wanted to help this child retrieve his Christmas gift and, as corny as it sounds, put the smile back on his face.
I believe our cities, communities, neighborhoods and personal lives absolutely DO NOT have to be a reflection of the selfishness, hatred, and perceived increasing racial division fed to us by news services. After witnessing this moment of neighborly cooperation, I am daring to hope that, while there are hateful people in the world, the majority of us will gladly come to the aid of our fellow human beings no matter how small or large the need. And, also, I’m now working on not avoiding my neighbors.