Monday, April 18, 2011

Disappearing Neighbors, and, Hoods!

I must admit that I don't know many of my neighbors in Harrison Township, Michigan, a town just north of Detroit. Now you know! Jared Loughner, the loner who murdered six innocent bystanders in Tuscon, AZ., months ago, didn't know most of his neighbors. I don't know many, I noted. Everyone keeps to themselves, it seems from my observations. Furthermore, while walking my dog, or, getting the mail, it's me who always seems to initiate what have become common civil courtesies, such as, "Good day," or, "Hi, How are you?" Americans pride their independence, and, individualism. We always have, always will, I suppose. Yet, mass murders, and massacres seem to be spiking in my good ole U.S. of A. Our U.S. Constitution is iconic for the rights of individuals, for sure. But, the common good, has always been front and center also. That seems to be disappearing along with neighbors and neighborhoods like the one I grew up in on Detroit's east side where gossip and "eye see you" was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow even 'tho I'm an alumnus of a Catholic school. Yes, one of those kids who was good-two-shoes in the classroom and after school or on the playground at lunch, I was, well. . . a hellion in gym shoes! A bit schizoid, wouldn't you say? The social self is built into our genetic composition it seems to me. Just as the spiritual self, that is, the awakened self, and, the phsyical and emotional self are part of my DNA, like your own, no? Town halls, community centers, the church, and, neighborliness. Things of the past? Front porches, touch football on the Arcola Street where the nine of us lived in a two-story-aluminum-side home, and, games, such as Mother May I. . .have gone the way of alleys behind our home, and, well, dinasours, certainly. So, what gives? You mattered. And, everyone else mattered, it seemed, then. Esteem seemed strong. His, her's and theirs! High technology? Did "techy" toys create this disappearing sense of neighbors, and, neighborhood I once knew and cherished (and, long for!) as a kid growing up in a Catholic ghetto, if you will? Did World War II bring on the demise and decline of neighbors and neighborhoods? Front porches were replaced by high fences between neighbors' yards. Where I live now, I have a porch with chairs on it, but do I sit on it? No! I prefer my balcony overlooking Lake St. Clair, and, the privacy my enclosed roof and sides offer. Unions are going. Neighbors and neighborhoods are going. Middle class neighborhoods are dwindling also, it seems. So . . . Do we still have a safety net in the neighborhood? Neighbors were over often caring for the seven of us children mending a bruised knee, or, fixing a broken bicycle tire, or more. It was common practice to visit. "Call if you coming," is the cry I hear so often. And, I want to throw up every time I hear it. It suggests that one's home has to be "perfect" before visitors enter. Not so in the old neighborhood I grew up in. We knew each other well, and we were better for it! All of us were, believe you me. Friends were plenty, and support abounded as much then. Loughner may have seemed friendless today where he lived, but I doubt that he would have been "to himself" decades ago. Others would have stepped to the plate, and, started conversation. The paralytic fear and timidity since 9/11, a decade ago this September has "walled" everyone in with fear, it seems. Help me bring back the neighborhood. Will you? Be a leader. Speak up and invite a neighbor or two or three over for a monthly conversation now thorugh December. Send me a note at so I may keep tabs and inch toward 500 home meetings by year's end. Not in a maudlin sense of nostalgia, but, rather, for interdependency and cooperation for the common good - a strength and virtue needed now, as then. Gather 'em in, will you? Inititiave 500 home meetings of your own calling and inviting, is a modest initiative to restore and recoup neighborliness and the 'hood all over again. You invite. Others show up. You get them talking. They speak up and engage. And, look at that, we get to know each other again. Eye see you! In a common good sense. Sense. Something we need again. Common sense to save the neighborhood. Eye to eye, person to person, one neighbor at a time, and two, and three and four in your home hopefully. Begin to build now. We'll be better for it. We all will, indeed.

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