Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What Makes a Wonderful Neighbor?

While a stereotype of a "good neighbor" does exist, I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a wonderful neighbor. As a kid, I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone watched out for each other, and it was perfectly safe for kids to play outdoors on their own anywhere. I found out years later at my father's wake that one neighbor had kept an eye on me when I played outdoors by myself, and had commented to me that she had especially enjoyed my singing. I didn't see her, and she hadn't wanted me to see her. Back then, the adults wanted their children to feel safe and secure playing outdoors on their own, exploring their immediate world, and walking to and from school. The adults wanted to feel safe and secure as well. Doors weren't locked at night until I was in middle school, and I never had a key to any of our house's doors.

As an adult now living in an urban apartment building, I think back fondly but realistically to my childhood and the neighbors we had. We knew them almost as well as we knew our cousins. And they knew us. There was communication among them, just as there was among the kids. We wanted the best for each other which didn't mean there weren't disagreements and occasional feuds. The adults taught us to be considerate and respectful of each other. Loud noise after bedtime? It'd only happen once because the police would arrive and issue a citation for disturbing the peace. If my parents weren't home when I arrived after school, I could go to any of the nearest neighbors to wait for them if I wanted (I usually just played outdoors). Neighbors picked up newspapers and mail for a family who'd gone on vacation and watched their house to make certain it remained secure. Were people just nicer to each other back then? I don't know, really, although it does seem so.

In the last few weeks, there's been a lot of loud noise after 10 p.m. in the building where I live. Someone actually posted a note in the front foyer about it, asking everyone in the building to be considerate and respect their neighbors who had to get up really early to go to work. I kept thinking, gosh, isn't it amazing that it even has to be said. To me being considerate and respectful is a given. But I guess there are people now who haven't been brought up to be considerate and respectful of others, to be aware of how their actions affect the people around them, or even that apartments are NOT soundproof no matter what they were told when they signed the lease. And people in apartment buildings no longer cultivate relationships with their neighbors, even if it's only to do each other favors like picking up mail when on vacation. (Mail? I still receive a lot of mail but I can imagine much younger people who don't.)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
And then there's the fact of countries being neighbors, as is true for Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Americans have always been able to travel easily to Canada and Mexico, and Canadians and Mexicans have traveled to America. We share a continent. We should want each other to do well in the world and be supportive of each other, even if we have disagreements. And like any wonderful neighbors, we're considerate and respectful of each other. At least until recently.

American presidents have worked to cultivate a good relationship with our neighbors. In the past, there have been disagreements, even wars, but we have survived as neighbors. If we want them to be good neighbors to us, then we need to be good neighbors to them. It pains me deeply the way President Trump talks about Mexico, Mexicans, and tries to bully their President. I've noticed that he hasn't done the same with Canada which does make me wonder. If nothing else, Trump is an equal opportunity abuser. He is not a good neighbor. (Although I can hear him now: What da ya mean, I'm not a good neighbor? I'm the best, the greatest neighbor you've ever seen!)

Mexican Friends
Is his bullying bluster a result of his ignorance of how to conduct diplomacy and friendship among nations? Probably. But instead of being so loud, inconsiderate, and disrespectful, he'd earn more respect and friendship by being quiet, and seek out mentors who know what he doesn't so he can learn. But that's not Trump. He's not a good neighbor because he's unaware of how his actions affect other people (usually badly). He's only aware of his own desires to be the most powerful, most in control, and the best at everything that anyone has ever seen, and the problem is that he thinks he's already all of those things. I definitely would not want to be his neighbor. I'm sure he'd expect everyone else to do him favors while he never returned them. And he'd be loud far into the night, not caring the someone next door needed sleep in order to get up at 4 a.m. to go to a job.

Will Mexico and Canada decide that they no longer want to be wonderful neighbors to us? America and Americans would be stupid to lose our good neighbors. Especially when they can help protect us against terrorists. How? By the way they protect themselves against terrorists.

We share the same continent. We are all in this together.

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